France Télévisions retains top-level sports coverage despite budget cuts
by Peter Scrimgeour
Television continues to be strongly anchored in the everyday lives of French people. In 2018, the average daily viewing time was 3 hours and 46 minutes, when all screens (TV sets, PCs, tablets, and smartphones) and all locations are combined.
1st April 2019, 15:08

France has a population of 67.36 million people in 30.22 million households. There are 29.13 million television households, representing a national television penetration of 96.4 per cent.

TV households penetration %

 

Source: Global Data

Television continues to be strongly anchored in the everyday lives of French people. In 2018, the average daily viewing time was 3 hours and 46 minutes, when all screens (TV sets, PCs, tablets, and smartphones) and all locations are combined.

The daily viewing time on a television set only was 3 hours and 36 minutes. That figure was 6 minutes down on the year before, but 12 minutes up on 10 years ago.

The decrease in television viewing hours in 2018 can be explained by the long hot summer featuring record high temperatures, the growth of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) and pirated sports content.

The Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA) is the independent public authority that regulates audiovisual communications in France.

The CSA has defined 21 sports events as "of major importance", and as such, must be accessible by all viewers. This ensures that the broadcast rights to these events are made available to the main free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters.

The following 21 events are considered of major importance:

1. Summer and Winter Olympic Games
2. French soccer team qualification and final tournament matches for the Fifa World Cup and Uefa European Championship
3. Opening match, the semi-finals and the final of the Fifa World Cup
4. Semi-finals and the final of the Uefa European Championship
5. Final of the Uefa Europa League when a French club team participates
6. Final of the Uefa Champions League
7. Final of the Coupe de France de football
8. Six Nations rugby tournament
9. Semi-finals and final of Rugby World Cup
10. Final of the French Top 14 rugby championship
11. Final of the European Rugby Champions Cup when a French club team participates
12. Men's and women's finals of the Roland-Garros tennis tournament 
13. Semi-finals and finals of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup when the France team participates
14. Formula 1 Grand Prix de France
15. Tour de France men’s cycling race
16. Paris-Roubaix cycling race
17. Men's and women's finals of the FIBA EuroBasket when the France team participates 
18. Men's and women's finals of the FIBA Basketball World Cup when the France team participates 
19. Men's and women's finals of the EHF European Handball Championship when the France team participates 
20. Men's and women's finals of the IHF World Handball Championship when the France team participates 
21. IAAF World Athletics Championships.

In April 2019, the French government launched a public consultation to consider possible amendments to the country's listed events legislation. French citizens can submit responses to the possibility of modernising the current list of 21 sports events, which was compiled in 2004, up to the end of May. In recent years, there has been a push to improve the visibility of women's sport, disabled sport, such as the Paralympic Games, as well as the championships in judo, volleyball, sailing and swimming. 

With sports of major importance on free-to-air television and 2018 being the year of the soccer World Cup, which was won by France, sport – all soccer related - recorded 36 of the highest rankings in the Top 100 annual audiences in 2018. This included 22 matches and six related programmes from the Fifa World Cup, three international friendlies building up to the tournament, four matches from the Uefa Nations League and the final of the Uefa Europa League featuring French club Olympique de Marseille against Club Atlético de Madrid.

The free-to-air television market is dominated by five major broadcast groups: national public broadcaster France Télévisions, and commercial broadcasters TF1 Group, M6 Group, NextRadioTV and Canal+ Group.

Television Audience Share by Broadcasting Group’s Free-to-Air Channels, 2018 

 

More than half of television viewing in France is to the long-established channels originally available over analogue terrestrial television and pre-date the emergence of multi-channels available on new digital television platforms. In France, these ‘legacy terrestrial channels’ are TF1, France 2, France 3, France 5, M6, Arte and pay-TV channel Canal+, and have been the historical leaders in viewership. The share of viewing to legacy terrestrial channels in France was 59.3 per cent in 2018.

French public broadcaster France Télévisions operates six national television channels - France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5, France Ô and Franceinfo and online service France.tv.

France Télévisions was the leading broadcaster in 2018, with all of its channels combining for a 28.4 per cent audience share. Long established channels France 2 and France 3 were the second and third most popular channels domestically in 2018, behind TF1, with audience shares of 13.5 per cent and 9.4 per cent respectively.

Television Audience Share, 2018 - Free-to-Air Channels 

 

At the start of the decade, the French government-imposed budget restrictions on France Télévisions, brought on by the tough financial climate in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2007–08.

Mid 2018, the French government announced further spending cuts at its public broadcasting operations as it aimed to improve state finances. As a result, France Télévisions will drop two digital terrestrial television (DTT) channels, France 4 and France Ô, by 2020, in order to save €160 million ($181.2 million) by 2022.

France Télévisions have ensured continued top-level sports coverage on the network despite cuts to its budget by governments over the years.

France Télévisions extended its deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to show the Olympic Games of 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020. The deal is valued between €160 million ($231.6 million) and €200 million ($289.5 million) in total, according to a report in Le Figaro, a French daily morning newspaper.

France Télévisions renewed its broadcast rights to rugby union’s Six Nations in a five year deal from 2018 to the 2022 edition.

Other rugby union rights held by France Télévisions includes live free-to-air coverage of the Top 14 final until 2019. In accordance with CSA’s sports “of major importance” legislation, the final of the Top 14, France’s main rugby competition, must be shown on free-to-air television, although Canal+, the French pay-television broadcaster, will also show non-exclusive live coverage of the game.

France Télévisions is the home to some of France’s most prestigious sporting events.

France Télévisions has won a fiercely competitive battle to land the exclusive free-to-air rights in the country to the 2024 Olympic Games on home soil in Paris. The public broadcaster outbid free-to-air rivals to land the sub-licensed rights from Discovery, the US media giant, in a deal that also covers the Beijing 2022 winter Olympics. 

France Télévisions is the traditional home of the Tour de France, road cycling’s blue-riband event, and holds the free-to-air rights for the race from 2016 to 2020 in a deal with race organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). France Télévisions will continue to show the Tour de France until 2025 under a new deal with ASO. As with the previous agreement, the new deal includes other annual events in the ASO portfolio, such as cycling’s Paris-Nice, Critérium du Dauphiné, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Flèche Wallonne, Critérium International and Paris-Tours, motor racing’s Dakar Rally and athletics Marathon de Paris.

France Télévisions secured the broadcast rights to the Le Mans 24 Hours until 2020, after agreeing a four-year contract extension to cover the prestigious endurance motor race.

France Télévisions also holds the rights to Roland Garros (the French Open), one of tennis’ four ‘grand slam’ tournaments, after securing a two year extension for the 2019 and 2020 events.

Other tennis rights held by France Télévisions include the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, which were secured in a four year sub-licencing deal with BeIN Sports which runs from 2016 through to 2019.

Commercial broadcaster TF1 Group, owned by conglomerate Bouygues, operates five free-to-air channels - TF1, TMC, TFX, TF1 Series Films and LCI - and thematic pay-TV channels - TV Breizh, History, UshuaïaTv and Serieclub (owned at 50 per cent) - and streaming platform MYTF1.

The TF1 Group is the leading private broadcasting group, and second-largest overall, in France, with a 27.6 per cent audience share in 2018. Flagship channel TF1 is the most watched television channel in France, with an audience share of 20.2 per cent in 2018, 6.7 per cent points higher than the second-ranked channel.

TF1 consistently dominates the top 100 annual audience lists. In 2018, 91 of the top 100 programmes were on TF1, with the top nine audiences, all broadcast by TF1, covering the Fifa World Cup.

France’s defeat of Croatia in the final to win the 2018 Fifa World Cup attracted the best average audience of the year and the seventh-biggest average audience in French television history. TF1’s coverage of the final registered an average audience of 19.4 million viewers and an 82.2 per cent viewing share, while the audience peaked at 22.2 million viewers at the end of the game.

The channel’s online platform, MYTF1, had 1.2 million visits during the final of the Fifa World Cup.

Top 5 Television Programmes, 2018  

 

TF1 acquired broadcast rights in France to the 2018 and 2022 editions of the Fifa World Cup. The deal sees TF1 show 28 of the biggest matches from those tournaments on a free-to-air basis. As part of the contract TF1 also secured exclusive rights to the Fifa Confederations Cup 2017 and the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2019, which France will host. The rights to the women's 2019 tournament were reportedly sold for over €10 million ($11.3 million).

BeIN Sports was appointed as the pay-TV rights holder in France for the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups. The two broadcasters are believed to be paying a combined fee of €140 million ($158.6 million) for each tournament.

TF1, in conjunction with rival broadcaster M6, acquired shared rights to the French national men’s soccer team qualifying matches for the 2020 Uefa European Championship and the 2022 Fifa World Cup, as well as the team’s games in the Uefa Nations League, and friendly matches. It has been reported that the broadcasters are paying €70 million ($87 million) each for the deal.

TF1 secured the domestic rights to Rugby World Cup 2019. The enables TF1 to show live coverage of all 48 matches in the tournament, with the option to sub-license some games. TF1 is reported to have paid close to €45 million ($55.4 million) for the rights.

TF1 hold free-to-air rights to show the finals of handball’s men’s and women’s IHF World Championships. The deal covers the 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025 editions of the showpiece competitions. However, TF1 is only committed to broadcasting the finals if the French team qualifies, as per CSA’s sports event "of major importance" rules. BeIN Sports, the pay-TV broadcaster, retained rights in France to show the competitions.

TF1 acquired rights in France to show four Grand Prix races live from motor sport’s Formula 1 World Championship, as well as highlights of all the other races. The three-year deal covers the 2018-20 period. In 2018, the four races covered by TF1 were the French Grand Prix, Monaco Grand Prix, Belgian Grand Prix and Italian Grand Prix.

Commercial broadcaster M6 Group, part of the European broadcaster RTL Group, operates three national free-to-air channels - M6, W9, 6ter - and four pay-TV channels – Paris Première, Teva, M6 Music and Serieclub (owned at 50 per cent), and streaming platform 6play.

These channels combined made M6 Group the third most watched broadcaster in 2018, with a 13.3 per cent audience share. Flagship channel M6 was the fourth most popular single channel domestically, with an audience share of 9.1 per cent in 2018.

M6 Group holds numerous rights to the French national soccer teams.

In conjunction with rival broadcaster TF1, M6 acquired rights to the French national men’s soccer team qualifying matches for the 2020 Uefa European Championship and the 2022 Fifa World Cup, as well as the team’s matches in the Uefa Nations League, and friendly matches. It has been reported that the broadcasters are paying €70 million ($87 million) each for the deal.

Additionally, M6 Group holds the domestic rights to the matches of the French national women’s soccer team in a five year deal from 2018-19 to 2022-23.

Furthermore, M6 Group picked up rights to France's matches at the 2019 Uefa European Under-21 Championship, which is to be held in Italy and San Marino.

Other sports rights held by M6 Group include the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019, the 37th edition of the continental showpiece basketball event.

France’s victory over Germany in the Uefa Nations League, delivered M6 its biggest television audience for 2018. The 2-1 win drew a match average of 6.8 million viewers and an audience share of 25.6 per cent for M6.

NextRadioTV, owned by telecoms and cable group Altice, operates three free-to-air channels: BFMTV, RMC Découverte and RMC Story. Altice also owns RMC Sport, the pay-TV sports channels of telecom operator SFR. NextRadioTV’s free channels had a 6.2 per cent audience share in 2018 and thus, consolidating its position as the third largest private broadcasting group in France. News channel BFMTV had an audience share of 2.6 per cent in 2018, making it the ninth most popular single channel in France.

NextRadioTV has invested heavily in acquiring sports content, such as the Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The deal sees RMC Story showing six Europa League group stage matches on free-to-air television as part of a commitment to make 15 games a season, including the final, available to a wider audience (all matches are available on Altice’s pay-TV sports channel, RMC Sport). It has been reported that Altice will show the Champions League final, which is protected by CSA’s listed events legislation, on its own news channel BFMTV rather than sub-license the rights to another free-to-air broadcaster.

Canal+ Group, the Vivendi-owned audiovisual media group, operates three free-to-air channels: C8, CNews and CStar. Canal+ Group’s free channels combined for a 4.8 per cent audience share in 2018. General-interest channel C8 had an audience share of 3.0 per cent in 2018, making it the sixth most popular single channel in France.

Canal+ Group, best known for its pay-TV services, has secured exclusive rights to cover major French and international sporting events. Like Altice, Canal+ can shift coverage of sports properties from its pay-TV service over to its own free-to-air channels such as C8 and CStar.

C8 has broadcast the final of the Uefa Champions League, which is protected by listed events legislation, in 2016, 2017 and 2018, pulling in average audiences of 4.2 million, 3.7 million and 3.8 million respectively. Previously, matches from soccer's Ligue 1 and rugby union’s Top 14, as well as the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, have been simultaneously broadcast live on C8 and the pay-TV channels of Canal+, offering additional exposure and reaching new audiences for the sports.

L'Equipe is a free-to-air digital terrestrial sports channel owned by the Amaury Group. The channel had an audience share of 1.2 per cent in 2018.

L’Equipe pulled off a significant coup by landing rights to European qualifying matches for the 2020 Uefa European Championship and the 2022 Fifa World Cup. However, the rights do not include live matches of the French national team, nor, the 'first pick' match in each round of fixtures.

Additionally, L’Equipe acquired live broadcast rights in France to the Uefa Nations League 2018-2019, excluding fixtures featuring France’s national team.

Cycling is a key sport on L'Equipe with the broadcaster holding rights for the UCI Track World Cup 2018-19, UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup 2018-19, UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships 2019 and UCI World Tour events Tour Down Under and Great Ocean Road Race for 2019.

Other sports rights held by L’Equipe include motor sport’s FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018-19 season, motorcycling’s FIM World Endurance Championship from 2018-19 to 2019-20 and International Biathlon Union (IBU) events that run from 2018-19 through to 2021-22.

Key Sports Rights 

 

Sportcal