French TV: Our Top Pick of TV Channels & Netflix Shows


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French TV: Our Top Pick of TV Channels & Netflix Shows

Television was first introduced to France in 1931, with colour television arriving in 1967. Technology has advanced apace since those early days, and now there is a variety of digital television channels as well as online streaming to choose from. Here’s what you need to know about setting up your TV and what TV channels to watch in France.

How to set up French television

France’s largest telecoms suppliers are Orange, SFR (Société française du radiotelephone), Free, and Bouygues Telecom, all of which offer TV subsctiprions. Many modern TVs come with a TNT (Television Numerique Terrestre) television decoder digital box, or else you will receive one when you start your subscription. This decoder box allows access to approximately 20 free channels. Most providers also offer a range of different subscriber packages, allowing access to additional sports, movies, or entertainment channels.

Read our guide to setting up TV, phone and internet in France.

Television license

In French, all households are required to pay for an annual TV licence or redevance audiovisuel – this is paid via a tax known as a contribution a l’audiovisuel. Currently, the television license is €138 and is subject to annual increases.

Streaming Services in France

France also has access to many popular streaming services including Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime. All you need to do is to subscribe.

Other popular free streaming services in France, include:

France 24 – an international news channel, which broadcasts 24/7 in French, Arabic, English and Spanish.

BFM – News and Weather

LCP – La Chaine Parliamentaire broadcasts from the National Assembly and from the French Senate.

Popular French Television Channels

Watching French TV is a great way to improve your French and stay up-to-date with the latest news. To get you started, here’s a rundown of the main channels.

TF1 – News, films, entertainment and sometimes live sporting events. Reputedly France’s number 1 channel.

France 2 – a national channel with programmes, series and documentaries.

France 3 – Series, films and replay programmes

France 4 -documentaries, series and films

France 5 – magazine/general interest shows, series and films

Canal+ sports, films and live streaming

Arte -magazine shows, concerts, culture, debates.

Useful Netflix Programmes for Improving your French

Watching a series you enjoy can be a brilliant way to improve your French. Not only will you hear the correct pronunciation, but it can help you to become familiar with idioms, slang phrases and abbreviations used in the French language.

For beginners, Netflix (or similar) is useful as you can slow down streaming and rewind and repeat. You can even display subtitles in your native language.

As you progress, you can display subtitles in French to improve your comprehension further.

Dix Pour Cent –  Set with the beautiful backdrop of Paris, exploring the chaotic lives of film agents. ‘Dix Pour Cent’ refers to their cut of the deal.

‘La Bazare de la Charite’ – Historical drama (some violence) with strong female lead roles. A 19th-century drama about a Catholic charity event with tragic consequences in France.

‘Lupin’ – An upmarket gentleman burglar with a conscience. A cross between Sherlock and ‘Oceans’. Also, a series of 9 books, which is useful too either before or after you have watched the series and want more! It was the most-watched series in 2021.

‘Au Service de la France’. 1960s Paris again and a drama/comedy about a trainee secret service agent set against the French political backdrop of the time.

Television plays a role in most people’s lives to differing degrees, and it can often be an important connection with the world beyond our sofas. Although you may notice some differences with a real proliferation of advertisements on some channels, you may well notice many similarities such as the French Bake-Off, singing shows and even episodes of popular UK dramas such as the crime drama ‘Vera’ set in my native North-East of England.

Happy watching!

Local Life in France

From shopping at the supermarket to sending a parcel at Post Office, finding your local dechetterie to who to call in an emergency—FrenchEntrée is here to help with every aspect of day-to-day living in France. Read our Essential Reading guides for advice on living in France, visit our Shopping zone or Pets zone, or brush up your language skills with our handy learning French resources.

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Carol, a teacher from Hurworth in Darlington, lives in Charente in South-West France, where she runs La Grue Gites with her family.

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