Ratings Roundup: Mentalist Gives Football a Run for Its Money in France


PREMIUM: It was a FIFA World Cup year in 2014, so it almost goes without saying that the great audience winner on French television was the month-long soccer tournament in Brazil, but the big surprise was how well long-running American detective show The Mentalist did in comparison.

World Cup matches featuring the French national team on TF1 monopolized the top five spots in the annual hit parade. The biggest audience of the year was for France’s losing quarter-final against the eventual champions from Germany with 16.9 million viewers and a market share of 72 percent. Overall, the World Cup accounted for 23 of the top 100 audiences, according to Médiamétrie. Three of the French team’s pre-tournament warm-up matches also featured in the top 100.

Episodes of CBS import The Mentalist, in its sixth season on TF1, accounted for 21 of the top 100. The best audience for the show was 9.72 million and a 36 percent share, ranking number 14 in the top audiences of the year.

No other fictional series came even remotely close to The Mentalist (which placed five episodes in last year’s French top 20).

In second place was French series Profilage, sort of a Gallic version of Criminal Minds from CBS. Profilage, produced by Beaubourg Audiovisuel for TF1, placed eight episodes in the top 100, while Criminal Minds itself placed five, the second best for any imported drama.

TF1 accounted for 98 of the 100 biggest audiences of the year in France in 2014. The only exceptions, both on France 2, were an interview with ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and an episode of British detective show Broadchurch from ITV.

Judging by the success and dominance of The Mentalist, Profilage, Criminal Minds and Broadchurch, French viewers obviously like their crime served with dollops of psychology.

The third year of singing competition reality show The Voice on TF1 was the most successful light-entertainment program, with nine editions in the top 100. The Dutch format from John de Mol’s Talpa Media peaked at number 13 of the year with 9.81 million viewers and a share of 41 percent.

The top feature film of the year was a French movie, Intouchable (Untouchable), ranking number seven with 12.2 million viewers and a share of 52 percent. The leading imported movie was Die Hard 4 at number 77, the only Hollywood picture to make the top 100 list.

With no national-team soccer tournaments scheduled, 2015 will be a more open year competitively for the biggest audiences. But there is a Rugby World Cup this year with the French team in the running. The final match of the previous edition of that tournament four years ago supplied the biggest French audience of 2011. By the way, The Mentalist accounted for 12 of the top 20 shows that year, so as successful as it remains, the show’s appeal has definitely softened.