The first TV channel in France was launched in 1931. During the following decades the TV market gradually grew through the increasing number of TV set in households and number of TV channels. In 1949 only 297 households had a TV set and the TV market was limited to a single TV channel run by the government. In 1965, 40 percent of French people had a TV set to watch two State-owned channels. The first major turn took place in 1975 when the State monopole on TV was broken and allowed the creation of the third State-owned channel. A second major turn appeared in the 1980’s decade when private channels were established (Canal+, M6, La Cinq) and a public one, ARTE (1992) in association with the German State. The television landscape in France has significantly changed in the last decade and is less and less concentrated. Until the beginning of the 2000’s decade French households could access less than 10 national TV channels free of charge. The digital terrestrial television (Télévision Numérique Terrestre, TNT) has been launched in March 2005: this system started offering 14 TV channels including five new ones. In 2015 TNT offered 25 free national channels and nine pay channels, plus up to four local free channels.
The different channels cover three traditional business model categories: public (financed by public taxes, such as all the channels of France TV group), private for free (predominantly financed by the advertising and commercials) and private pay-TV (Canal+ that offers free programs along a majority of them that require a subscription, and all the TV channels included in subscription television packages via satellite).
The TV market is concentrated around four major actors. As of 2018 the State-owned group, France Television alone (turnover: €3bn in 2016) runs 5 channels (France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5, France Ô) that all are available for free and financed by public taxes. The group is also a shareholder of other 7 TV channels. Three other main actors are private. TF1, the largest European private TV channel, is the main TV channel of group Bouygues (in addition to 8 others channels including TMC, TFX, LCI, Histoire), an international large industrial holding primarily operating in construction, real estate development, and subsidiary in telecoms and media (turnover of TF1 group: €2.1bn in 2017). RTL group is a leading European entertainment company that runs M6 Group in France (turnover: €1.279bn billion in 2016) whose TV flagship is M6 (in addition to 9 other channels including W9, 6ter, Paris Première). Canal+ group (turnover: €5.250bn in 2016) includes four TV channels (Canal+, C8, CStar, CNews) and its holding company, Vivendi, has been led since June 2014 by Vincent Bolloré.
Finally, in 2017, the French have spent an average of 3 hours and 42 minutes watching TV each day, compared to an average of 1 hour and 23 minutes a day browsing Internet. In 2017, TF1 (private), was still the leader with an audience share of 20 percent. France 2 (the 1st channel of the State-owned group, France Televisions, in terms of audience) has attracted 13 percent, whereas M6 draws 9.5 percent and France 3 (a mix of regional news and entertainment programs) is the 4th TV channel (9.1 percent). The first breaking news channel is BFM TV, the leading TV channel of News Participation, a private media conglomerate run by Patrick Drahi, which attracts 2.7 percent of audience each day.