* Group ad revenue rises 4.7 pct
* Reiterates forecast for flat full-year sales
* Revenue hurt by comparison with 2010 soccer World Cup
* Shares gain 8.1 pct
(Adds comments from conference call)
By Christian Plumb and Gwenaelle Barzic
PARIS, July 26 France's biggest broadcaster, TF1
, reported a stronger-than-expected 79 percent rise in
first-half operating profit as programming costs fell and group
advertising revenue rose.
Shares in TF1 jumped more than 8 percent after it said
operating profit climbed to 186.5 million euros ($267 million)
and first-half ad revenue rose 4.7 percent to 905.2
million, helped by its TMC digital free-to-air channel
and Internet activities.
Analysts had expected, on average, EBIT of 136.5 million
euros and net income of 87 million for the first half.
"The consensus was more conservative than these results,"
CM-CIC analyst Eric Ravary said in a research note, citing the
stabilisation of ad revenue and programming cost savings.
Group sales at TF1, 43 percent owned by French
construction-to-media conglomerate Bouygues , dipped
0.5 percent to 1.28 billion euros, hurt by a lack of major
sporting events in comparison with last year's first half, which
was boosted by the soccer World Cup.
Revenue from advertising on the TF1 channel fell 0.9 percent
in the first half, again hurt by comparison with the World Cup.
TF1 reiterated its full-year forecast for flat consolidated
sales, saying the economic climate was still characterised by
But Chief Executive Nonce Paolini said on a
conference call that advertising revenue had been "rather good"
in July and did not have "particular worries" for the rest of
Shares in TF1 were up 8.1 percent at 13.76 euros by 0950
TF1 leads the French TV market but its market
share declined to 23.8 percent from 24.8 percent in the year-ago
period with growing competition from other free channels.
Asked about speculation that TF1 could move to a
free channel model for its LCI all-news channel, Paolini said
the market was forcing the free model on news channels.
Expiry is looming for a deal under which Canal Plus operator
CanalSat offers LCI as part of its line-up.
If it became free, LCI would compete with two
French news channels that are supported exclusively by ad
revenue, and some have questioned whether there is room for
three such operators.
Paolin said, however, he was sure there was space
for LCI as well as BFM TV, owned by NextRadioTV and
i-Tele, owned by Canal Plus which in turn is majority owned by
($1 = 0.698 Euros)
(Editing by Andrew Callus, Sophie Walker and David