BIRTH OF FRANCE’S FIRST TV CHANNEL
26 April 1935: France’s first-ever TV programme is broadcast on the brand new Radio-PTT Vision channel. Renamed Radiodiffusion Nationale Télévision in 1937 and RTF Télévision in 1949, in 1964 it becomes the flagship channel of ORTF, the new French public-service broadcaster. In the 1970s, shortly after the break-up of ORTF, Télévision Française 1 starts broadcasting as the successor flagship channel on 6 January 1975. The channel’s early years – initially in the public sector, and post privatisation in 1987 – see the invention of a host of new programmes and formats. Already, TF1 has ambitions to become a popular mass-media channel.
Following the break-up of ORTF, TF1 (short for “Télévision Française 1”) assumes the mantle of flagship channel, screening 60 hours of programmes a week to the 70% of French households with a TV set. The channel’s first logo is designed by Catherine Chaillet.
Evelyne Dhéliat makes her debut on TF1 as a continuity announcer. News bulletins are anchored by Yves Mourousi at lunchtime, Roger Gicquel in the evening, and Jean-Claude Bourret at the weekend. Jean-Pierre Pernaut takes his first steps as a newscaster, presenting the late-night bulletin until 1978. Casimir delights kids in L’Ile aux Enfants.
Iconic soccer show Téléfoot begins, as does the regular Sunday-evening movie slot Le Cinéma du Dimanche Soir. In 1977-1978, the channel posts all-time record viewing figures as its average audience share hits 50.4%.
On 2 July 1981 Jacques Boutet becomes the new Chairman & CEO and makes the channel more highbrow, bringing new faces to the screen such as Frédéric Mitterrand and Michel Polac (presenter of Droit de réponse). As a sign of the times, 1981 also sees the arrival of US series Dallas on TF1.
Appointed as Chairman in 1982, Michel May steps down in July 1983. He is succeeded by Hervé Bourges, with the ambition of making TF1 a popular mass-media channel. The start of his term sees the end of black-and-white transmission from the Eiffel Tower: TF1 is now broadcast in colour across the whole of France.
Coluche hosts a four-hour live show promoting his new Restos du Coeur food aid charity. He invites a host of performers and celebrities to take part in a live show for no fee in aid of his charity. At first some of them decline, to which Coluche is said to have riposted “Vous êtes vraiment une bande d'enfoirés” (“You really are a bunch of jerks”). Hence the Enfoirés name adopted by the band of performers in the now annual show.
The Chirac government privatises France’s flagship channel, and the Bouygues group is selected as preferred bidder. From 1987 onwards, TF1 launches new formats that will go down in the channel’s history: home shopping show Le Magazine de l’objet, devised by Pierre Bellemare, rebranded a year later as Téléshopping; kids’ show Le Club Dorothée; variety show Sacrée Soirée, hosted by Jean-Pierre Foucault; gameshows Le Juste Prix and La Roue de la Fortune (French versions of The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune); and Nicolas Hulot’s cult show Ushuaïa. Patrick Poivre d’Arvor anchors the evening news for the first time.
Patrick Le Lay takes over as Chairman & CEO of TF1. Talk show Ciel mon mardi makes its debut, as does Jean-Pierre Pernaut as anchor of the lunchtime news. TF1 takes its first steps into the music business with the creation of in-house label Une Musique.
Catherine Laborde becomes a weather presenter, and TF1 starts screening the American soap The Young and the Restless under the title Les Feux de l’Amour.
BUILDING A EUROPEAN BROADCASTING INDUSTRY LEADER
After its early pioneering years and the consolidation of its flagship status among French viewers, the 1990s are a period of expansion with the arrival of Eurosport as part of the TF1 group; the launch of LCI (France’s first rolling news channel) and satellite broadcaster TPS; and first steps on the web with TF1.fr.
TF1 changes its logo and adopts the familiar blue/white/red branding still used today.
Europe’s premier sports broadcaster Eurosport joins the TF1 group, building on the Group’s strong tradition in sports coverage. Claire Chazal becomes an anchor on the TF1 weekend news bulletin.
TF1 relocates its studios from Rue Cognac-Jay in central Paris to more modern premises, and inaugurates its new headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, where Francis Bouygues and Patrick Le Lay laid foundation stone of the new TF1 headquarters. The year also sees Evelyne Dhéliat’s debut as a weather presenter, and a blossoming of French drama with hit shows like Julie Lescaut, Les Cordier, juge et flic, and Une Famille Formidable.
Broadcaster of the European Cup since 1977 and the Champions League from 1992, TF1 carries live coverage of the heyday of French club football, culminating in Marseille’s victory in the 1993 Champions League final.
The TF1 group commits further to news programming with the launch of LCI, France’s first-ever rolling news channel. Françoise Marie Morel hosts the first broadcast on 24 June.
TF1 is a partner in the creation and launch of TPS (short for “Télévision Par Satellite”), a bouquet of satellite channels, alongside France Televisions, France Télécom, Compagnie Luxembourgeoise, M6 and Lyonnaise des Eaux. In the same year Les Enfants de la télé, hosted by Arthur and Pierre Tchernia, moves to TF1.
On TF1, Lagaf presents the first edition of the highly successful game show Le Bigdil, which remains in the schedules until 2004. In sport, Eurosport attracts an aggregate audience of 80 million viewers for its 24/7 coverage of the Nagano Winter Olympics. And over 20 million people watch the triumph of French national team “Les Bleus” in the final of the football World Cup.
The movie Astérix et Obélix contre César, directed by Claude Zidi and co-produced by TF1 Films Production, goes on general release. The screening of Balzac, directed by José Dayan and starring Gérard Depardieu, helps TF1 win 8 prizes at the “7 d’Or” French TV awards (including Best Drama for their previous collaboration, Monte Cristo). The French national rugby team delivers one of its best performances ever, hammering New Zealand in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
DEVELOPMENT OF A MEDIA GROUP IN THE FOREFRONT OF INNOVATION
The 21st century sees the TF1 group innovating more than ever in response to fragmentation: in viewing devices, and in viewer behaviour and expectations. New formats, new faces, new talents – and new programmes too, with the rise of digital terrestrial television. What emerges is a bold media player – but one with a growing sense of its responsibility and strongly committed to upholding its values, both internally and with the viewing public.
In May, TF1 shares join the CAC 40 index. On screen, TF1 launches two new game shows: Qui veut gagner des millions ? (the French version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?), hosted by Jean-Pierre Foucault, and Attention à la marche, hosted by Jean-Luc Reichmann. TF1 also launches Sept à Huit, a new current affairs show featuring Thomas Hugues and Laurence Ferrari as the first presenters. Another craze hits France with the arrival of Pokemon on the Group’s channels. And on 2 July, over 21 million viewers tune in to TF1 as France beat Italy in the final of the UEFA Euro 2000 football tournament.
In January, TF1 acquires 50% of Série Club. Later in the year, TF1 launches Koh Lanta and also Star Academy, hosted by Nikos Aliagas. The final of Season 1 of Star Academy, won by the singer Jenifer, attracts more than 11.8 million viewers. This is also the year of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which are covered live on LCI. TF1 followed up the story by despatching Gilles Bouleau to London and Jean-Pierre Pernaut to New York.
TF1 embarks on a broadcasting diversification strategy. The Group ups its stake in TV Breizh to 71.1% in April, and completes the acquisition of 100% of the capital of the Histoire channel at the end of June.
In February, TF1 and Groupe AB continue this strategy, acquiring TMC from the Pathé group. In March, the TF1 group launches Ushuaïa TV, a new channel with Nicolas Hulot as flagship presenter. It also launches a video on demand site (MYTF1 VOD) in response to new patterns of viewer behaviour.
On 5 July, TF1 records the biggest audience on any channel with 22.2 million viewers for the football World Cup match between Portugal and France. TF1 screens Season 1 of the successful US series Grey’s Anatomy.
On 31 July, Nonce Paolini takes over as Chairman & CEO. He revamps the schedules with new entertainment shows like Secret Story, and cult series like House. The Group acquires Dujardin, one of France’s leading producers of board and card games. And Edith Piaf biopic La Môme (released as La Vie en Rose in English), co-produced by TF1 Films Production, wins an Oscar and attracts 5.2 million box-office entries in France.
TF1 switches to HD on digital terrestrial television (DTT). Eurosport HD is launched, in 14 languages across 26 countries. Keen to promote equality of opportunity and diversity of backgrounds within its ranks, the TF1 group inaugurates its own charitable foundation dedicated to diversity and opening up job opportunities for under-privileged youngsters. Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, a movie co-produced with TF1 Films Production, wins the César award for Best Original Screenplay and is the highest-ranked French movie in the box-office charts.
On 12 February, TF1 completes the sale of its 50% stake in France 24. In June, TF1 and Groupe AB sign an agreement for TF1 to buy out Groupe AB’s 100% stake in NT1 and 40% stake in TMC, raising TF1’s stake to 80%. On 29 June, TF1 celebrates the 60th anniversary of its daily news bulletins, and marks the occasion by opening its doors and studios to viewers for the first time in a special edition.
The buyout of TMC and NT1 is completed in June. On 14 December, the TF1 group becomes the first French media company to be awarded the “Diversity” label, with all Group companies receiving accreditation. Another new show hits the screen: the game show Les 12 coups de midi, hosted by Jean-Luc Reichmann.
In January, TF1 launches the MYTF1 app, available on all devices. By the end of the year, the app has already been downloaded more than 2 million times. On 2 November, the movie Untouchables – co-produced by TF1 Films Production – goes on general release, and proves to be a national phenomenon with over 20 million box-office entries. 2011 also sees the first appearance on TF1 of Danse avec les stars (the French version of Strictly Come Dancing).
Always on the lookout for new programmes, TF1 brings The Voice to French TV and attracts 9.3 million viewers for the launch show. In June, Gilles Bouleau takes the helm of the weekday evening news bulletin. And in November, the TF1 evening news takes first prize at the 13th Media Tenor Global TV Awards, in recognition of the pluralism of its news coverage.
The TF1 logo has its most recent makeover. In 40 years, the channel has only had 2 logos and 5 makeovers.
Luc Besson’s Lucy, a co-production with TF1 Films Production, becomes the biggest-grossing French film internationally. In April, the TF1 group unveils the new tagline for its TF1 core channel – “TF1, Partageons des Ondes positives” (“TF1, sharing positive vibes”), accompanied by a short promotional clip (Les Français).
Evelyne Dhéliat celebrates 40 years on TF1 and Ushuaia TV its 10th anniversary, while the TF1 group completes the sale of Eurosport. The Group signs up to the LGBT Charter, officially acknowledging its ambition to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity. TF1 makes its mark as a talent-spotter with Louane from Season 2 of The Voice, who wins breakthrough album of the year and the César award for Most Promising Actress.
FROM MEDIA GROUP TO MAJOR CONTENT PLAYER
The transformation of the TF1 group gathers pace, driven by an ambitious diversification strategy and a reorganisation of operations into three complementary core businesses – Broadcasting, Digital and Production – alongside Music. The Group is a major content player in France and Europe, with content accessible anywhere and an increasingly personalised user experience. Our mission, now more than ever, is to have a positive impact on everyone’s lives.
On 19 February 2016, Gilles Pélisson becomes Chairman & CEO of the TF1 group. Supported by Ara Aprikian (Broadcasting) Thierry Thuillier (LCI initially, then News), he implements a bold multi-channel strategy. This includes the freeview switchover of LCI and a relaunch for TMC, taking it up-market with a new identity unveiled in the launch show of the new current affairs programme Quotidien.
The TF1 group continues to invest in digital by taking an equity stake in Studio 71. La Seine Musicale – a new music and performing arts venue on the Ile Seguin in Boulogne-Billancourt – is completed; the TF1 group takes charge of event programming. In broadcasting, the soap opera Demain nous appartient enjoys ratings success, pulling in nearly 3.5 million viewers a day. To encourage social responsibility among its employees and inspire corporate actions around three key themes (solidarity, diversity, sustainability), the Group launches TF1 Initiatives.
January sees the rebranding of two channels: NT1 becomes TFX and HD1 becomes TF1 Séries Films, as part of the rationalisation of the TF1 group’s free-to-air channel portfolio. The game show Burger Quiz makes a triumphant return on TMC. 2018 also sees the Group signing global distribution agreements with telecoms operators that rewrite the business model and offer a win-win solution for the creative industries. Production activities move up a gear as TF1 acquires Newen, a major producer and distributor of audiovisual content in French and international markets. Also moving up a gear is collaboration with the start-up ecosystem, as TF1 launches an accelerator program housed in the Paris-based tech hub Station F. A series of acquisitions – the aufeminin group, programmatic ad specialist Gamned, and Doctissimo – expand the Group’s digital footprint. The TF1 core channel launches 20h Le Mag, a regular current affairs slot profiling inspirational personalities. And the TF1 group is ranked among the top 20 companies globally for gender equality.
The TF1 group reorganises its operations, setting up three core business segments: Broadcasting, Production and Digital. In line with its core social values, the Group signs up to a charter against sexual harassment and sexist behaviour in the media, and to a manifesto supporting the integration of people with disabilities into the workplace. Newen creates its own charitable foundation with a mission to encourage and support the broadcasting talents of tomorrow in all their diversity. Production activities continue to expand with the acquisitions of Reel One and De Mensen, while TF1 sells off its Home Shopping business. At the same time the takeover of Play Two puts down a further marker of the Group’s ambition to become a leading partner to the music industry. In-house ad agency TF1 PUB launches Box Entreprises, a simple online platform targeted at SMEs that enables advertisers of any size to develop TV ad campaigns.On television, the Group carries live coverage of the entire women’s Football World Cup for the first time ever, including the classic victory of the USA in the final. Meanwhile, the global phenomenon Mask Singer hits the screen in France, hosted by Camille Combal.
The start of 2020 sees the launch of Ringside Studios, a new production company. In March Les Misérables, to which TF1 has acquired the broadcasting rights, wins Best Film at the César awards. Throughout the year, in the midst of the global Covid-19 crisis, the Group makes every effort to ensure continuity of service, and adapts its programme schedules with innovations like a third daily news bulletin and brand-new “lockdown specials” shot at home.