Posted on Oct 26, 2021 6:45 PMUpdated Oct 26, 2021, 7:17 PM
3, 2, 1, 0… Company managers, local elected officials, prefect, Marseille “people” – including former OM player Eric Di Meco, event sponsor, comedian Patrick Bosso… Everyone Marseille “gratin” was invited on Tuesday to chant the count of the official launch of the BFM Marseille channel. This Tuesday, three new local channels from the BFM galaxy landed on the airwaves: BFM Marseille Provence, BFM Toulon Var and BFM Nice Côte d’Azur.
These three southern television channels, bought from their founder and associates, including businessman Iskandar Safa (notably behind “Current values”), had started broadcasting since July but in the form of a single regional channel. From now on, they will have their own programs, focused on local news and services, with live meetings (“Bonjour Marseille”, “Bonsoir Var”, etc.).
While the local television sector, which has been in deficit for years, has not been the dream of the PAF for a long time, Altice – BFM’s parent company – has pursued a strategy against the tide, drawing inspiration from the American model, in particular from News 12 (New York area), in the fold of Altice US. The group now has 8 chains (with Paris since 2016, then Lille and its region, Lyon and the Southern Alps – Haute Provence) “In total, we have recruited 150 journalists in the region. We are the only players to successfully launch new channels, ”says Arthur Dreyfuss, CEO of Altice Media.
In discussions with two other channels
And it is not finished: the group is in discussions with two new chains (in the East and the West of France, precisely in Alsace and Normandy, according to our information) to add them to its network in 2022. ” We already cover 50% of the French population ”, specifies the leader, who sees this network of channels as an“ alternative to France 3 ”.
The group claims a cumulative audience of 3.6 million viewers per week. “Everywhere, we have multiplied the audience by two or by four compared to that of the acquired channels and this, from the first weeks. And we are the second news channel in most regions, ”he continues.
Beyond the strength of the BFM brand and its know-how, Altice has succeeded in imposing an original model. At low cost, some people cringe. Journalists shoot with an iPhone and the control room is automated.
“Local channels operate with teams of two on-set journalists who can launch their own stories themselves. In comparison, there are 6 technicians, directors for the national channel BFMTV. Automation allows us to invest in recruiting journalists, ”explains Hervé Beroud, Deputy CEO of Altice Media. In fact, local channels operate with a few million euros of annual budget, when BFM is around 50 to 60 million euros.
Profitable local chains
The group seeks to capture national advertising and local advertisers, with prices of a few thousand euros. Some 70% to 80% of revenue comes from this route. “And three quarters had never done a television commercial,” adds Arthur Dreyfuss. The group claims profitability for all its local channels acquired in the past.
“You can’t get national advertising without a network. This is what makes the strength of Indés Radio, for example, ”said Francis Morel, senior advisor at McKinsey – former manager of the Safa company which sold these local channels in the south to BFM. “In addition, with its branches, BFM is strengthening its proximity to information, distinguishing itself from its competitors. “
To avoid making the regional press cringe too much, which does not welcome the arrival of a new player, BFM is seeking to increase partnerships with local media. For example, he has a political program with “La Provence”.
The BFM surge provoked a counter-offensive: five large regional daily press groups joined forces within Territoires TV to form a network in terms of advertising and common content. “We are trying to better expose and market video, using our strong roots in the region. We do not see BFM as competitors ”, assures Patrick Venries, the boss of“ South West ”, who chairs this group. “We have more resources than BFM, with the strength of our editorial staff and our knowledge of the local fabric”, adds Hubert Coudurier, director of information for the “Telegram”. “And we don’t have this sensationalist, very Parisian side …”
Not so easy to find the right model on local television. Vià, who had tried the bet of a network, broke his nose and declared himself in suspension of payments at the beginning of the year. According to the latest study by the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA), in 2019, 24 of the 39 channels studied were in the red and the cumulative operating loss – although reduced – reached 1.2 million. And the Covid crisis has accentuated the difficulties with a shortfall of 1.7 million in the spring alone, according to Locales.tv (for 18 channels).