RealTime IT News

Internet TV Comes to France

Internet television has arrived in Europe in the form of a French company broadcasting business and government events as well as a batch of quirky live Interactive cultural programs.

Founded in 1998 by the French entrepreneur Jacques Rosselin, CanalWeb.net aims to "become the leader on the European interactive audiovisual market, offering programming for TV channels specifically created for the Internet," said company spokesman Nathalie Lenne-Fourcade.

CanalWeb is capitalized at FF5.3 million ($913,000). Its staff of 15 are equipped with seven DV digital cameras, a digital production studio and an Internet-diffusion control room.

"Our main cash earner is the production and diffusion of Internet broadcasts for business and government," said Lenne-Fourcade, adding that, "Demand is strong. We expect FF9 million in 1999 sales."

For a typical two-hour press conference, the company would charge about FF60,000.

From Feb. 9-12, the CanalWeb site will broadcast live the 5th edition of the Paris Porte-de-Versailles conference on the Internet, Intranet and E-commerce. A schedule appears on the site.

CanalWeb is experimenting with Interactive cultural programming, mostly in French.

"People come to us with projects. If interested, we propose a co-production and three months of diffusion," said Lenne-Fourcade. "We plan to gradually expand this programming, especially adding more English shows and may sell advertising starting later this year."

On the home page, clicking a countdown target in the style of early television takes you to a modest listing of live weekly shows such as cartoons and an English-language music program. An interactive chess program allows viewers to follow and respond to a grand master's moves onscreen. On the "Philosophical Hair salon," the guest gets a haircut while discussing the question of the week with the barber and host. All the programs are archived.

With a 45.3 kilobits per second connection, the pictures suffer from the occasional slow blur typical to Real Video, but also demonstrate the Internet's promise as a broadcast medium.

The company counts as its four main shareholders Pierre Bergi, president of Yves-Saint-Laurent Couture, the group Sud-Ouest through its audiovisual subsidiary -- Atlantel, and two French venture-capital companies. Its Paris headquarters are in the building that reportedly was the birthplace of French television in 1956. "We thought this would be an appropriate place from which to launch the television of tomorrow," says the site.