Online Channels Making Headway in France

The online landscape of France, which for years has been dominated by Minitel, will begin to a migration to the Web, interactive digital television (iDTV) and wireless services over the next five years according to Forrester Research.

Minitel users still outnumber all other forms of online access, Forrester’s Technographics report found. Some 15 million French consumers (33 percent of the nation) still use Minitel. But French consumers are accessing the Web via PCs in large numbers, and although the Minitel system will not disappear from French homes, its role will be reduced.

“The French have lower-than-average access to the PC Web when compared with other European markets because they still have some unique concerns about the channel,” said Paul Jackson, Technographics analyst at Forrester’s European Research Center. “Specifically, the PC Web suffers from not being ‘French’ enough, and consumers’ concerns over security are maintaining low levels of French home-PC ownership. However, despite the local concerns of French consumers about the PC Web, the percentage of French consumers online via the channel grew from 13 percent in 1999 to 22 percentat the end of 2000.”

In addition to the PC Web, iDTV and WAP are future contenders for the online time of the French. iDTV is the fastest-growing new technology in Europe, and it has an installed base of French iDTV owners of 7 percent. WAP services have not yet taken off to any appreciable degree in France — but Forrester reports that many consumers will get WAP when they buy a new wireless handset.

Although iDTV and WAP have yet to gather a critical mass of users in France, Forrester predicts that each will service a significant audience by 2006. Indeed, over the next five years, Minitel will move from being the leading online channel among French consumers to become the understudy of all other online devices. The number of consumers without any method of going online will fall dramatically by 2006 — with this will come a surge in demand, particularly for e-commerce. More importantly, however, consumers will begin to blend their use of different devices — with clear device competition and cooperation emerging.

“The availability of multiple channels to any individual means that tasks will gravitate to those channels best fit for the purpose,” Jackson said. “The PC Web will remain a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ platform — quite good at most things and excelling at real-time information provision, transactions and communication — ensuring that most e-commerce and messaging will take place on this channel. However, the other channels will offer best-of-breed solutions for a number of applications: Minitel’s focus will narrow to local and travel information services, iDTV will be the best medium for high-quality audio/visual content and WAP will benefit from its go-anywhere ability.”

Internet Usage in July 2001
France Britain
Number of sessions per month 15 13
Number of unique sites visited 17 18
Time spent per site 24:01 20:45
Time spent per month 6:58:58 6:22:21
Time spent per surfing session 27:38 29:28
Duration of a page viewed 00:40 00:43
Active Internet Universe 5,468,447 13,098,235
Current Internet Universe Estimate 11,107,974 23,870,341
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

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