Will FTV reintroduce prime-time advertising to fill its 2012 budget gap?

Pascale Paoli-Lebailly ©RapidTVNews | 02-06-2012

The French government is considering reintroducing prime-time advertising on France Télévisions.
Imposed by former President Sarkozy, the PSB ad ban was first introduced in prime-time slots, with a complete ban set for 2015. But a recent report from the French Senate sheds new light on this TV revolution. The cost of the ad ban on France Télévisions has amounted to €628m over the last four years and the new taxes brought in to compensate for this loss, on the telcos' revenues mostly, didn’t bring back enough money. Judged illegal by the EC, France could even be forced to ditch it in the coming months.
This was revealed yesterday, one day after France Télévisions Board of Administrators approved the 2011 accounts. The French public TV group has posted a net consolidated result after taxes of €5.9m in 2011. Ad revenues were almost stable at €423.7m compared with the previous year and the 2012 prior forecasts.
However, its 2012 budget already shows a €30m gap owing to a delay in raking in expected ad revenues. FTV hopes the London Olympics will contribute to fill this gap but the financial situation will remain tense in the months to come.
At the same time, the group stresses programming costs significantly rose by 2.7 % in 2011 while engagements into French TV creation are reaching new heights to €416m vs €392m in 2010 and €382m in 2009.
The ad ban has been costly for France Télévisions, which now must find new sources of revenues and cut other spendings. It could be obliged to find €200 to €300m very soon.
Of course, with the return of prime-time advertising on public screens lurking, French private TV groups such as TF1 and M6 are already interfering in the debate to warn such a regress would threat the fragile economy of the French TV market, which will be enriched with six new DTT HD channels at the end of this year. They even amount the loss to €175 million.