TF1 ups ad rates for Rugby World Cup


PARIS -- French commercial broadcaster TF1 has upped the rate for ad slots during the Rugby World Cup semi-final on Saturday after the national team's previous match set an audience record for the sport last weekend.

The French team pulled off an unexpected victory over the tournament favorite New Zealand on Oct. 6 in their quarterfinal clash. The much-hyped match drew an average audience of more than 16.6 million for TF1, the largest ever for a rugby game in France.

The number of viewers peaked at more than 18 million shortly before the end of the game, underlining how the sport in general and the world cup in particular have managed to reach a wider public in recent years. TF1 had already set a new rugby audience record with France's game against Ireland earlier in the tournament, which drew 14.5 million.

For comparison, France's semi-final win last year in the Soccer World Cup over Portugal drew 22.2 million viewers, the best-ever audience on French television since the current measurement system was introduced in 1989.

The strong results have prompted TF1 to raise the tariff for a 30-second spot in the up-coming showdown between France and England by 25% to €150,000 ($210,500). For the final on Oct 20, a 30-second ad will cost over €200,000 ($280,600) if France make it through, but only half that if they succumb to England.

TF1 paid a reported €40 million ($56 million) for French rights to the tournament's 48 matches, which it has divided up between its main terrestrial network and its specialist channel Eurosport. At one point, the network looked set to make a resounding loss, after the host nation lost the opening game to Argentina. But the French team turned its fate around last weekend with the stunning win over the All Blacks.

The strong showing of the Gallic team will come as a relief to TF1 executives. The network ran into trouble with the French team after using footage shot in the dressing room in a news broadcast the day after the defeat to Argentina which certain team members felt showed them in a poor light.

Despite having paid for behind-the-scenes access to the Gallic team, TF1 was forced to agree to no longer screen footage during the tournament.