U.S. and U.S.-style hits top TF1 lineup

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PARIS -- After a record-breaking year, TF1 executives on Wednesday unveiled the 2007-08 lineup they hope will keep them on top of the French broadcasting heap.

TF1 CEO Nonce Paolini hosted a theatrical presentation in the grand Olympia theater, giving the press a glimpse of what to expect on the self-proclaimed "channel of emotion and sharing."

With a primetime average of 7 million viewers and 97 of the 100 top-rated programs last year, TF1's market share is in perfect health thanks to U.S. imports "Grey's Anatomy" and "House."

"Grey's" took in 7 million viewers on average during its third season on TF1 for a market share of 30.8%. The show's spinoff, "Private Practice," seduced an average of 7.2 million loyal viewers, or 30.7% of the market, when it aired in early July.

"House's" second season attracted about 3 million viewers per night. But it's the "CSI" franchise -- from Las Vegas to Miami to New York -- that brought in the highest numbers for TF1. "CSI: NY" and "CSI: Miami" have been breaking records, taking in more than 10 million viewers on numerous occasions, often representing a more than 40% market share for their competitive primetime slot.

TF1 also used its annual rendez-vous with the media to announce a new deal with NBC Universal to broadcast "Heroes" here just 24 hours after the original episodes air stateside. The show will be available for download on TF1's VOD Web site TF1 Vision. The deal comes in response to the illegal downloading of the series since its debut. According to TF1, each episode of the hit show's first season was downloaded 300,000 times by French Internet users.

TF1 also is hoping to compete with the success of its U.S. series by investing more in homegrown fiction. "We've been carrying out the 52-minute revolution," TF1 head of fiction Takis Candilis said. TF1 will spend €200 million ($273 million) on in-house fiction next season, making the broadcaster the top investor in the genre.

More than 300 hours of Gallic programming are aired each year, more than 100 hours of which are reserved for the primetime slot, and TF1 plans to continue the pattern.

TF1 will continue to invest in series based on the U.S. model. "R.I.S." -- sometimes referred to as the French "CSI" -- has been renewed for a 12-episode third season. The first season broke records with an average 9.9 million viewers per episode and the second season saw 7.4 loyal viewers following the Gallic forensics team. "Paris, Enquetes Criminelles," a "Law & Order"-style series, also has been renewed for a second season. New this year is medical drama "L'Hopital," which seems to have taken a page out of "Grey's Anatomy," with a plot line that follows young, good-looking doctors working in a French hospital.

The network will continue to invest in feature films, both through deals with U.S. studios and by co-producing 25 French movies per year. The network broadcasts 192 movies per year, 60 of which air during primetime.

On the reality front, musical competition "Star Academy" is approaching its seventh season and famous chanteuses Celine Dion and Kylie Minogue will make appearances on the popular program. Drew Carey's "Power of 10" also will make its debut on the network this year.
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