Television in France

Television in France was introduced in 1931, when the first experimental broadcasts began. Colour television was introduced in October 1967 on La Deuxième Chaîne.

Digital terrestrial television

The digital terrestrial television platform was launched on 31 March 2005 after a short testing period. Like Freeview in the UK, it provides many new channels, as well as the current terrestrial television stations. Like the rest of Europe, France uses the DVB-T transmission technology.

By 2012, the digital terrestrial television services were expected to cover at least 95% of the French metropolitan population. Five high-definition (HD) channels (four free-to-air and one subscription) were launched in October 2008 using also the H.264 format. In September 2005, pay television channels were launched that use the MPEG-4 format, unlike most of Europe, which uses MPEG-2.

Pay-per-view terrestrial channels use H.264. TNT is the first service to implement Dolby Digital Plus as an audio codec on its high-definition channels. Viewers must buy a TV set (or set-top box) that supports both MPEG-4 H.264 and DD+ to enjoy HD channels.

Analog broadcasts were switched off on 30 November 2011 on all platforms, whether it is terrestrial, satellite or cable. Overseas departments and territories (such as French Guiana and Martinique) also terminated all analog broadcasts on the same day.

DTT transition

By 2008, 34% of the French population was using analogue TV as an only reception mode. The next year, the city of Coulommiers switched to digital-only TV, serving as a test city for TDF. By the end of 2009, analog TV was shut off in the Nord Cotentin, and TDF reported no major reception problems. Citizens in DTT test zones were informed that analog TV would shut down by early 2009, and consequently they adapted their installation.

For the rest of the country, the shut-off progressed by regions, more precisely France 3 regions. It means that every transmitters broadcasting France 3 Méditerranée Provence-Alpes went digital-terrestrial on the same date, another date for those that broadcast France 3 Bourgogne Franche-Comté. The analog shut-off occurred in 2010 in the north; the south was the last to phase out analog television broadcasts.

For three months before shutting down an analogue transmitter, it transmitted the DTT multiplexes so that viewers could adapt their installation on time. Also, a message was displayed as marquee on analog channels warning the viewer that he would no longer receive TV if he or she did not switch to digital. To help people installing their DTT reception equipment, the French government created "France Télé Numérique". It made didactic videos, television advertisements, and went through the local markets, to meet people and solve their problems regarding DTT reception.

Elderly people and those with restricted financial conditions, received help from the French government; so that they could switch to DTT easily.

The most common adapters sold in the market only decode MPEG-2 and have only one SCART output socket. Old TV sets (before 1980) need a UHF modulator between the TV and the set-top box, as they have no SCART socket. Unlike VCRs, DVB-T set-top boxes rarely include such a modulator, and a SCART to RCA adaptor is often needed to feed the modulator with the signal. The solution recommended by France Télé Numérique is just to buy a new TV set instead of using a modulator.

DTT on satellite

TNT channels are also available for reception by satellite, broadcast from the Astra satellites at 19.2° east as TNT SAT and from Atlantic Bird 3 as FRANSAT. Some of the channels are encrypted but there is no subscription charge, and both the set-top box and viewing card (valid for four years) that are required are available from hypermarkets. The public channels France 2, France 3, France 5, France Ô, LCP and the Franco-German channel arte are free-to-air on Atlantic Bird 3.

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, France 2 and France 3 were blacked out to viewers outside France. France 2, 3 and 4 were also blacked out outside France during the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they shared French TV rights for the tournament with TF1 and beIN Sports.

Other technologies

Most internet service providers in France now offer digital television (IPTV) packages through triple-play set-top box. However, some subscribers have too much attenuation distortion on their lines to benefit from the service, and France does not yet have 100% DSL coverage.

French cable providers Noos SA and UPC France SA and Numericable merged to become the largest cable operator in France. They provide cable television (using multiple brands) through their set top boxes.

Digital satellite television in France was launched in 1996. HDTV transmissions began in April 2006, when CanalSat launched its first HD channel (Canal+ HD). Télévision Par Satellite and CanalSat have merged in 2007, leaving Nouveau Canalsat and Bis Télévisions as the two main competitors for the satellite television market in the country. TV Shows from the age of PBS Kids & CBeebies include Barney & Friends, Teletubbies, Bob the Builder & Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Media groups

Dominant groups

Four companies dominate the French TV market :

- TF1 Group (owned by Bouygues), which owns TF1, TMC, TFX, TF1 Séries Films and LCI

- France Télévisions, which regoups all state-owned channels meaning France 2, France 3, France 5, France 4, France Ô , franceinfo: and 45% of Arte's shares

- M6 Group (owned by RTL Group), which owns M6, W9, 6ter and Gulli

- Canal+ Group (owned by Vivendi), which owns Canal+, C8, CNews and CStar

Other important groups

- NextRadioTV (BFMTV, RMC Story, RMC Découverte)

- NRJ Group (NRJ12, Chérie 25)

Minor group

Amaury Group (L'Équipe)

Viewing shares

Yearly viewing shares in 2018 (not including subscription channels):[1]

LCP-Public Sénat and France Ô are uncounted because they are not destined to be profitable.

CanalChannel PositionOwner Theme(s)Share of
total viewing (%)
in 2018
Evolution in


to 2017 (%)

1TF1 1TF1 Group General programs20.2 +0.2
2France 2 2France Télévisions (state-owned) General programs13.5 +0.5
3France 3 3France Télévisions (state-owned) General programs, Regional9.4 +0.3
6M6 4M6 Group General programs9.1 -0.4
5France 5 5France Télévisions (state-owned) General programs, Culture, Family3.5 -0.1
8C8 6Canal+ Group General programs, Entertainment3.0 -0.3
10TMC 7TF1 Group General programs3.0 -0.2
15BFM TV 8NextRadioTV 24/7 news2.6 -0.1
9W9 9M6 Group General programs, Music2.6 =
7Arte 10Arte (state-owned) Culture2.4 +0.2
24RMC Découverte 11NextRadioTV Documentaries2.2 +0.1
11TFX 12TF1 Group Entertainment, Reality TV1.9 -0.1
20TF1 Séries Films 13TF1 Group Fiction, Movies1.8 -0.1
18Gulli 17M6 Group Youth1.7 +0.1
14France 4 14France Télévisions (state-owned) General programs, Entertainment, Youth1.6 -0.2
226ter 15M6 Group Family1.6 -0.1
12NRJ 12 16NRJ Group General programs, Reality TV1.5 -0.1
23RMC Story 20NextRadioTV General programs, Diversity1.4 +0.2
4Canal + 18Canal+ Group General programs, Movies1.2 =
21L'Équipe 21Amaury Group Sports1.2 +0.1
17CStar 19Canal+ Group Music1.1 -0.1
25Chérie 25 22NRJ Group Women, Movies1.1 =
16CNews 23Canal+ Group 24/7 news0.7 +0.1
26LCI 24TF1 Group 24/7 news0.7 +0.1
27 franceinfo: 25 France Télévisions, Radio France,

INA, France Médias Monde (state-owned)

24/7 news 0.4 +0.1
19France Ô -France Télévisions (state-owned) Overseas, DiversityUncounted -
13 LCP-Public Sénat - French Parliament Politics, News Uncounted -

See also


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