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French Broadcasters Divided Over Free DTT Launch

France’s broadcasters are still deeply divided over the best time to launch a new wave of free DTT channels.

TF1, M6 and Canal Plus were all granted extra DTT frequencies by the French government last year – with 2011/2012 earmarked as the provisional launch date. But free-to-air players TF1 and M6 don’t want to go to market until 2016. TF1 CEO Nonce Paolini reaffirmed that position at the NPA-Le Figaro conference (June 23) on connected TV and OTT services, arguing that the ad market is still too weak to sustain new channel entrants.

RTL-owned M6 agrees. Previously, M6 told Le Figaro that it plans to spend €150m a year backing two new DTT channels called WikiTV and M6 Famille. While it is still prepared to go to market in 2011/2012, CEO Nicolas de Tavernost has also asked the government to postpone the launch window until 2016, at which point public broadcaster France Télévision will be subjected to a total ad ban. Speaking at the same conference, de Tavernost said: “The market now has 19 free-to-air channels and the complementary offer on Free DTT mustn’t be launched before new ad revenues (are available).”

The dissenting voice is Canal+ CEO Bertrand Meheut who wants to launch a free movies and drama channel to complement the company’s raft of PayTV services by early 2012. His view is that a four year delay would allow foreign services to enter the market via connected TV platforms, thus killing off the new channel brands.

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