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Métropole Télévision

Métropole Télévision

89 avenue Charles de Gaulle
92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine, Cedex
France
Telephone: ( + 33) 1 41 92 66 66
Fax: ( + 33) 141926610
Web site: http://www.m6.fr

Public Company
incorporated:
1986
Employees: 900
Sales: FFr 4.1 billion ($680 million) (1999)
Stock Exchanges: Paris
NAIC: 513120 Television Broadcasting Networks; 512110 Television Show Production

Métropole Television is one of Frances leading television broadcasters and programming producers. Métropole Televisions flagship station is the M6 television channel, which, in 1998, captured 14.1 percent of the total French television viewing audience, and more than 19 percent of the viewing audience under the age of 50, ranking the station number two behind TF1 (Television Fran^aise 1). Métropole Television holds a joint-venture participation in the Television Par Satellite (TPS) television service, adding channels Serie Club, Téva, M6 Music, and Fun TV to TPS and to certain cable television networks. The companys other television production interests include its Home Shopping Service, which provides programming, including Club Telé Achat, to M6 and Téva, as well as other French satellite and cable channels and to television stations in Belgium, China, and Canada. Beyond television, Métropole Television has placed the M6 name on a successful line of magazines, videos, and compact discs. Through subsidiaries M6 Films and Métropole Productions, the company produces and coproduces films and programs for the cinema and television markets. Advertising sales for the M6 station remain the companys chief source of revenue, topping FFr 4 billion in 1999. Métropole Television continues to be led by founder and CEO Jean Drucker.

Little Station That Could in the 1980s

Until the early 1980s, Frances television broadcasting networks remained under the tight control of the French government, which restricted the number of available stations to just three: TF1, which was privatized in 1987, and the government-owned Antenne 2 and Antenne 3. The appearance of privately owned television stations marked something of a revolution for the French television viewer. The first of the new breed of channels was Canal Plus, a subscription-based service requiring a set-top decoder, which began broadcasting in 1984. Canal Plus was soon followed by La Cinq, broadcasting on Frances channel five. Plans for a sixth channel, TV6, to be operated by radio programmer NRJ and advertising agency Publicis, foundered by mid-decade.

In 1987, however, a new station joined Frances airwaves. Called M6, the station quickly became known as the French version of the Little Engine That Could. Starting on a budget of just FFr 500 million per yearwhich represented only one-fourth of the budget for La CinqM6 definitely faced an uphill battle. As CEO and founder Jean Drucker told Le Point, We didnt start from zero. We started from less than zero. One of the stations largest hurdles was that its broadcast network remained severely limited, with reception assured in less than one-third of France, in part because of government reluctance to allow the station to expand its network of transmitters nationwide. Industry analysts were also skeptical that the French market could support a sixth television channel. Métropole Televisions first years balance sheet seemed to bear out the skeptics, as the company posted losses mounting to FFr 380 million.

Yet Drucker, who had previously served as president of Antenne 2 (later renamed France 2), not only had extensive experience in television, but also the deep pockets of financial backers Lyonnaise des Eaux and CLT (Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Télédiffusion, later CLT-UFA), which each held 25 percent of Métropole Television. Drucker put his broadcasting experience to good use, focusing on establishing a strong identity for the new station. The company developed the M6 logo, and a look for the station that set it apart from its competitors. Standing apart was also extended to M6s broadcast schedule as well. In a country where the eight oclock news broadcast was known as the high mass, M6 dared to be different, offering an array of counter-programming initiatives that increasingly brought it to the attention of Frances television viewers, in particular the younger viewing markets.

M6s counter-programming took on various forms, including broadcasting television serieschiefly American-madeduring the traditional news time, as well as a CNN-inspired six-minute newscast presented in the time slot just before 8 p.m., when all of the other stations were still broadcasting commercials. M6s choice of programming often placed the company in difficulties with the CSA (the French television authority) and requirements that stations devote certain percentages of their broadcast time to French- and European-produced programming. American shows such as Cagney and Lacey and The Cosby Show gave M6 an increasing share of the French viewing public. M6 also developed its appeal with the youth market, devoting much of its broadcasting time to music videos.

Despite a strong showing in its urban markets, where the channel pulled in as much as 15 percent of the viewing audience, M6 remained the smallest kid on the block. With just two percent of the national audiencein a system that largely lacked local advertisingM6 remained far from its break-even point of ten percent. This situation began to change early in 1988, when the extension of the companys transmitter network allowed it to triple the number of television households it could reach. By then, with zappers (i.e., remote controls) in hand, more and more television viewers were tuning into M6.

Diversifying in the 1990s

By 1991, M6 had captured a nine percent share of Frances viewing public. Although the station continued to rely heavily on music videos and U.S.-imported shows, Métropole Television had begun to show its own programming muscle. M6-produced programs included Capital, a highly respected news magazine with an emphasis on corporate and financial matters, and Culture Pub, a program devoted to advertising around the world, both of which began to make a mark on the French television scene. Nevertheless, the company continued to face industry criticism for its lack of French- and European-made television programming, especially from Frances producers guild, but also from many political leaders who did little to hide their interest in seeing M6 disappear altogether.

Similar pressures, and viewer disinterest, led to the demise of La Cinq by 1992, suggesting that the country indeed was not ready for six television stations. But M6s fortunes continued to rise, gaining points not only from the closing of La Cinq (which was later replaced by station Arte, a co-French-German broadcaster oriented toward cultural programming), but also from Frances Big ThreeTF1, France 2, and France 3. As the company neared the ten percent break-even point, it was also moving from net losses toward net profits. By 1991, with revenues of FFr 800 million, the company had cut its losses back to just FFr 140 million. Nevertheless, with the end of La Cinq, many in the industry began sounding the death knells for M6, with its total of FFr 1.4 billion in losses during its first five years of business. Métropole Television turned to its two largest shareholders for continued financing; in turn, Lyonnaise des Eaux and CLT both increased their shares to 34 percent.

The year 1992 proved to be M6s turning point. With its share of the television viewing audience topping ten percent for the first time, M6 became profitable, posting net profits of FFr 100 million for the year. The companys fortunes continued to rise. By 1993, as its national share of 12 percent gave it a growing percentage of the nations total advertising expendituresreaching 14.9 percent that yearnet profits topped FFr 230 million on revenues of FFr 1.8 billion. In 1994, Métropole Television was ready to go public, posting just nine percent of its shares on the Paris Stock Exchange. Priced at FFr 260 per share, the listing was over-subscribed some 38 times, making it one of the years most successful IPOs.

Métropole Television invested its new capital in diverse activities. The rollout of satellite television, under preparation in the mid-1990s, and the extension of cable television offered the company new programming perspectives. New channels proposed by the company included Téva, a channel featuring programming for the womens market; M6 Music, taking over the companys music video programming as M6 itself turned more and more toward programming fiction and news and entertainment magazines; and Serie Club, devoted to broadcasting French and U.S.-made series. Métropole Television also bought into the TPS satellite network; the companys participation, together with the strong share positions of CLT and Lyonnaise, gave Métropole Television a leading role in TPSs operations.

By 1995, Métropole Television had succeeded in shedding its debts. The company continued to post steady gains in profits, despite its share of the loss-making TPS network, only slowly beginning to gain momentum. In 1996, M6 faced once again the ire of the CSA. Where M6 had enjoyed the regulatory bodys lenience toward the stations disregard of its programming quotas, the companys success now forced it to toe the line, especially during the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot. The tightening of its requirements led the company to increase its own production investments. By 1998, Métropoles own productions were helping to drive the companys success, forming the majority of its top audience-generating programs.

Key Dates:

1987:
M6 television station begins broadcasting.
1988:
Potential viewing audience reaches 18 million households.
1994:
Company is listed on Paris Stock Exchange.
1995:
Company purchases interest in Television Par Satellite (TPS).
1998:
Home Shopping Service and Fun TV stations are launched.
2000:
Share of national audience tops 13.5 percent.

The companys satellite television investments began to pay off in the late 1990s as well. Growing public interest in satellite broadcasting, spurred by sharp drops in the prices for satellite dish receivers and decoders, placed TPS as one of the leaders, alongside CanalSatellite, for the French market. After increasing its own participation in TPS to 25 percent, Métropole Television quickly made plans to create more new channels, including Fun TV, oriented toward the youth market, and the Home Shopping Service.

Métropole Television was also making advances on other entertainment fronts. The companys M6 Interactions subsidiary made strong inroads with its magazines, video and compact disc, and software products. Métropole Television also joined the big screen, providing production and financing for a number of cinema projects, including Quasimodo and Peut-étre, among others. The company also began preparations for two new television channels, to be launched after the turn of the century, M6 Famille, devoted to family programming, and TV.com, featuring multimedia and computer-oriented programming. On the multimedia front, Métropole Television created a new subsidiary, M6 Web, grouped under its M6 Interactions subsidiary, to govern its Internet and multimedia activities. The growing importance of its multimedia activities was highlighted by M6 Interactions growing share of the companys annual revenues: some 30 percent of 1998s FFr 3.5 billion.

In 1999, Métropole Television extended itself into a new arenathat of the sports arena. In May of that year, the company joined shareholder CLT-UFA in the purchase of the Girondins soccer club of Bordeaux. The purchase not only gave the company an entry into the sports market, it also gave it the possibility to include live sports broadcasting on its stations for the first time.

Métropole Television entered the new century with the announcement that it had gained the second place position among Frances general-programming stations, with a 13.6 percent share nationwide. The little station that could had certainly proved that it couldand most likely would continue toassert itself as a leader in the French television market.

Principal Subsidiaries

M6 Publicité SA; M6 Interactions SA; Home Shopping Service SA; Tecipress SA; M6 Droits Audiovisuels SA; TCM Droits Audiovisuels SA; TCM Gestión SA; M6 Films SA; Métropole Productions SA; C. Productions SA; Métropolest SA; M6 Thematique SA; Extension TV SA; Paris Premiere SA; Sedi TV SNC; Edi TV SA; Fun TV SNC; Club Téléachat SNC; M6 Numérique SNC; TPS SNC (25%).

Principal Competitors

Canal +; France Television; TF1; CanalSatellite; NC Nu-mericable; France Telecom Group.

Further Reading

Aubert, Philippe, Une telé pas comme les autres, Le Point, January 4, 1988, pp. 74-75.

Equirou, Marine, Jean Drucker: M6 réalisera en 98 un benefice au moins égal a celui de 97, Les Echos, September 10, 1998, p. 24.

Feraud, Jean-Christophe, M6 brigue le deuxiéme rang des chaines généralistes, Les Echos, September 3, 1999, p. 16.

M6 to Be Bound by Broadcast Quotas, Tech Europe, January 9, 1996.

Short, David, Small Networks Reap Big Rewards, European, October 7, 1994, p. 25.

M.L. Cohen

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