INTERVIEW. “M6 is a strategic issue for TF1”

The takeover of M6 through TFI consolidates the position of the Bouygues group channel in the French audiovisual landscape. But it does not solve all the problems of the new group facing the American giants of digital television.


Philippe Bailly, president of NPA Conseil. © NPA Conseil

What made the success of M6 ?

She cultivated her image of “little chain going up” even when she took third place behind TF1 and France 2. She has always known how to innovate, to be daring, as when she launched reality TV in France with “The Loft”, in 2001. There is also the quality of its management, embodied by Nicolas de Tavernost, who directs M6 since its creation. What moreover brought TF1 to entrust him with the reins of new set.

Why the resumption of M6 was it so important for TF1?

Of the five candidates, this is the one for which the merger was the most strategic for TF1. Faced with the offensive of American streaming platforms, TF1 must consolidate its position in free channels, its core business.

However, the takeover of M6 do not endow TF1 resources comparable to those of Amazon, Disney or Netflix …

With an annual production budget of 1.5 billion euros for the whole TF1-M6 against 19 billion for Netflix, there is still an imbalance. This does not prevent TF1 to defend its position in its market, where there is still a premium for local content. Furthermore, the success of Lupin shows that there is no inevitability and that French creativity can appeal internationally.

The two groups each have five digital terrestrial television channels (TNT). However, the law limits the maximum authorized per operator to seven.

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The new entity will indeed have to give up three of them. This can concern two channels with a small audience, TF1 Series Films for TF1 and Paris Premiere for M6. The third could be either TFX, from TF1, or W9, from M6, both of which target the same young audience.

With 41.4% of cumulative audience and two-thirds of TNT advertising revenue, isn’t the merger likely to be blocked by the competition authority, despite the channel sales?

There are alternatives to an outright ban. As has already been seen, the two groups can keep perfectly separate advertising agencies. The Competition Authority could also apprehend the market by including digital video, whose advertising turnover has exploded, while that of television has been stable for ten years.

If the operation is allowed, then it will be a great victory for TF1

However, all will not be settled. The main problem of channels is not so much their number as the conditions imposed on them for the rebroadcasting of productions, to their detriment and to the benefit of independent producers. Although the channels finance most of the productions, they do not have the possibility of promoting them beyond a few broadcasts on their antenna and not at all on their own digital platforms. The renegotiation of the decree governing these rights is underway, under the aegis of the State. Everyone agrees in principle, but this still has to lead to an agreement.

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