Mardis de l'ESSEC Report: Gilles Pélisson


On 14 June 2016, Mardis de l’ESSEC interviewed Gilles Pélisson (E79), CEO of French TV channel TF1. Report by student Diego Mermet.

Koh Lanta – even though I’m not the adventurous kind!” This was Gilles Pélisson’s reply when we asked him which of his programs he identifies with. It’s true his career has been something of an assault course: Eurodisney, Bouygues Telecom, Accor, and now TF1. Corporate giants that he has managed one after the other, despite them having little in common.

Is he a manager as opposed to a media man? Not necessarily. The new patriarch of French broadcasting promotes a broader approach and highlights his experience in complementary areas of entertainment – from Disney to mobile and Internet content at Bouygues. A sign that in a sector disrupted by players such as Netflix, heavyweights like TF1 can no longer settle for being traditional TV channels. They have to adapt.

Digital: the bright side

The multiplication of screens offers us unprecedented possibilities in the interaction and diversification of content, while the world of advertising is about to be transformed by the arrival of big data. TF1 has every intention of seizing those opportunities. The time we spend in front of the TV is not going to decrease, says Gilles Pélisson, but the way we watch it is changing due to trends, the irruption of new technologies but also age, genre, or whatever you're going through in your personal life.


2016 10 05 - Mardis de l'ESSEC, Gilles Pélisson 2 © Noir sur Blanc.jpg© Noir sur Blanc


To meet the expectations of an increasingly segmented audience, TF1 is investing in new areas, extending its activities well beyond the small screen, e.g. buying YouTube channels and partnering with Netflix. It seems nothing will stop the red, white and blue giant.

But its 2.0 strategy cannot overshadow the work it does on its core business. In his role as brand manager, Gilles Pélisson knows how to adapt the group’s media offshoots to different audiences: after TF1, the generalist flagship, there’s TMC, the former “recycled program” channel that’s now an entity in it’s own right, aimed at young professional males; NT1 is more feminine, while LCI is now part of the highly select club of news channels available free-to-air. As a diversification strategy it couldn’t be clearer, backed as it is by an obvious ambition to enhance programming.

The spoils of war…

Yves Calvi, Yann Barthès and the entire team behind the program Petit Journal… The newcomers to TF1 are legion – to the delight of viewer ratings. The formula seems to work; diversification is now a leitmotiv that has all the answers. Has television become the medium of cheap comedy, of base humor, of instant, uncritical information at the expense of cultural standards?

Absolutely not! It’s diverse! It has to respond to all demands and speak to all audiences!” Would TF1 abandon football to its paying channel competitors, Canal+ and BeIn? “No! TF1 chooses the matches and the sports it covers, whether it’s football, rugby or cycling…

And we’ll leave Gilles Pélisson with the last word: “We can’t carry on as if we were still in a 10-channel environment. There are hundreds of them!” It seems the first channel intends to keep its ranking for quite some time yet.


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