“The campaign is not a show that will attract the general public”

Once again, a letter from the big screen is confirmed on the small one. The spread of What else have we done to God? on TF1 on Sunday April 3, brought 7.6 million viewers in the first channel, according to Médiamétrie. Or an audience share of 34.6%, well ahead of the other channels, during a precious time slot, on Sunday night.

Will TF1 repeat such a score next week? the first channel made talk by programming, on Sunday, April 10, The visitorsby Jean-Marie Poirée, starting at 9:30 p.m.… That is an hour and a half after the result of the first round of the presidential elections.

Shortened, the traditional election night, during which editorialists and politicians follow one another on the set to comment on the results of the vote live. They and they will, but only from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. “As a leading channel, we consider that in the hot part of an hour and a half, we can have given all the facts, results, reactions, comments,” justified Thierry Thuillier, deputy director general of the TF1 news division, with Agence France Presse. Then, the election night will continue on LCI, the continuous news channel of the TF1 group.

A boost for LCI

If this afternoon format is unprecedented for a presidential election, TF1 has already chosen “for other elections, including legislative ones,” Thierry Thuillier noted. He also mentioned “uses, [d] your tastes and [d] viewer expectations [ayant] evolved”, due to “the multiplication of the offer” in the news channels.

Should we see in this election a symbol of citizens’ disinterest in elections, to reflect the abstention rates announced as records? Could this programming be a message sent by TF1 to the political world? For Isabelle Veyrat-Masson, director of research at the CNRS and member of the laboratory (Center for Research on Social Bonds), this unprecedented choice is above all strategic. “I think there are two explanations: first, it is from TF1 that a certain boost is given to LCI, which struggles to outperform the rest of the non-stop news channels in a competitive context. The second would be the feeling that this campaign is not interesting, it is not fun. This is not a show that will appeal to the general TF1 audience. »

The researcher also notes that BFM TV is “less engaged than LCI or CNews” in managing the campaign. “Of the three, it is the most commercially oriented channel, its main motivation is to build audiences. This discounted treatment “shows that the programmers realize that the campaign will not have an audience. »

economic choice

An observation shared by TF1, therefore. Five years ago, on April 23, 2017, the night of the first round of the presidential elections, the channel had raised 5.7 million viewers, for a 21.5% audience share. Election night, hosted by Anne-Claire Coudray and Gilles Bouleau, ended around 10:35 p.m. France 2, whose live broadcast ended around midnight, fared better, with 24.6% of viewers .

The visitors, they gathered almost 8 million viewers during their last appearance on TF1, in April 2020. It is true that the French were then confined. But already, in 2016, there had been 7.2 million to follow the adventures of Jacquouille. A guaranteed success, therefore, and an assumed economic commitment. “by programming The visitors, TF1 makes an economic choice, summarizes Isabelle Veyrat-Masson. This may shock, but we may also find it legit, insofar as TF1 is a commercial channel. And television is a show. »

no news

However, this show, the researcher believes, is not interesting enough this year. “There is less suspense than in 2017,” argued TF1 after announcing that it would shorten its election night. “In a campaign, like in fiction, you need interesting characters, suspense, reversals. At the moment, this is a repetition of 2017, less well, because there is no more news, analyzes Isabelle Veyrat-Masson. With the Macron phenomenon, the previous campaign was extraordinary. Even the public service channels had played the show game. It was like a reality television show, with its confessions, its miscellaneous facts… This time, the campaign seems to have an inevitable end. Zemmour changed things up a bit for a while, but it didn’t last. »

In addition, the campaign has been relegated to the background due to “such important events on the front line: the war in Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic. Each time, events can color the campaign. But I don’t remember seeing this configuration before”, says Isabelle Veyrat-Masson, for whom the “uninteresting” aspect of the campaign “justifies” that TF1 does not want to spend too much time there, during an “important evening for audiences” . However, according to the researcher, “if something totally unexpected happens during the first round, I think The visitors will be forgotten and that TF1 will adapt its antenna”.

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