Ad revenue spot-on for TF1 with Q1 profit

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NEW YORK -- TF1 Group, owner of France's most-watched TV network TF1, reported stronger first-quarter financials Tuesday driven by higher advertising revenue and improved results at its niche channels.

Boulogne, France-based TF1 Group's first-quarter profit jumped 18.8% to €88.5 million ($119 million), and operating profit climbed 18.5% to €125 million ($168.1 million) as higher revenue combined with a 2.5% decline in programming costs at the core network thanks to a lower number of dramas on the broadcast schedule.

Revenue rose 7.3% year-over-year to €702.3 million ($944.7 million), with the flagship TF1 channel seeing a 6.1% increase to €457 million ($614.7 million) as it opened TV advertising to the retail sector. Retail ads made up 6.5% of TF1's gross advertising revenue in the first quarter.

Under French regulatory rules, the network had been restricted from supermarket advertising since 1968 to protect other media whose revenue is more dependent on retailers.

At the end of March, TF1's market share reached 54.2%, the company said.

The firm's theme channels in France also were a strong suit in the first quarter as they boosted revenue 29.8% in the period thanks to a new distribution deal with Canal+ France and a 28% ad gain.

For full-year 2007, TF1 Group on Tuesday maintained its guidance of an ad revenue gain of about 6% for the TF1 network "in spite of difficult trends in April and May."

The company also reiterated that Nonce Paolini has started his new job as CEO of TF1 Group. In late February, Patrick Le Lay, who remains chairman, proposed that he leave the CEO post to another executive so the two positions are separated.
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