Ligue 1 TV rights: “Canal or not Canal”, that’s always the question

Failing to get enthusiastic in the stands of the stadiums, football fans will at least be satisfied to see the Ligue 1 clubs breathe a good bowl of fresh money. And it was time! Stuck in the financial crisis, strangled by the Mediapro fiasco, the clubs are on a tightrope, seeing the months parade and their cash flow dry up. A slope that could have been fatal for the most fragile. But Thursday evening, the bad series of TV rights ended its season on a final twist… not really unexpected.

What shortfall for the LFP this season?

The management of Canal +, which for weeks had been promising legal battles for the Professional Football League (LFP) to comply with its rules of the game, finally returned its chasuble and accepted an over-the-counter negotiation with it. The channel has therefore put on hold its desire to call for a new global call for tenders including the famous lot 3 (two matches per week purchased by BeIN Sports, sub-licensees to Canal) for which Canal + pays more than 300 million euros this season (which she considers overpaid given the current situation). And the boss of the encrypted channel, Maxime Saada, therefore accepted a direct negotiation which he had however excluded lately. Are you still following?

In this game of liar poker, there was not much to hope for the LFP, except to limit the damage at the start of 2021 to redo the icing in the spring. To recover the 8 matches per day of the championship broadcast by Téléfoot (the ephemeral channel of Mediapro which will close shop this Sunday), Canal+ has therefore offered to honor its bills for lot 3 by even advancing the payment which was to be staggered over the season. In the coming days, 200 million euros will therefore arrive in the coffers of the League, which will then be able to pay this sum back to professional clubs and begin to repay its bridging loans (more than 100 million euros) at the juicy interest rates. ‘interest. But the discount is still severe compared to Mediapro’s unfulfilled promises: the LFP will therefore receive 650 million euros for this season, or half of what should have been put on the table by the Sino-Spanish group. .

Limited offer. 2 months for 1€ without commitment

What to do with Amazon, DAZN and Discovery?

For Canal +, which will co-broadcast with Téléfoot this Sunday the long-awaited classic of the championship, OM-PSG, for which it has already offered 3 million euros to the LFP, it is therefore a high-flying victory. From the next day, the historic broadcaster of French football will offer its subscribers 100% of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 with its partner BeIN Sports, for which it provides a large part of the distribution in France. But there remains a big question mark: what will the League do for the next few seasons?

Le patron de Canal+ Maxime Saada lors du Festival de la fiction à La Rochelle, le 13 septembre 2019

Canal+ boss Maxime Saada at the Fiction Festival in La Rochelle, September 13, 2019

afp.com/XAVIER LEOTY

By urgently launching a call for tenders at the end of January which ultimately proved unsuccessful without the participation of Canal, the bidders (Amazon, DAZN, Discovery-Eurosport) not reaching the reserve prices set by the LFP, the latter nevertheless surveyed the market. And the interests are real, which nevertheless reassured the management and its new president, Vincent Labrune. Legally, the LFP can therefore continue to discuss with these operators to find an over-the-counter agreement as it has just done with Canal +.

The League can thus try to draw up a tailor-made package for the Gafa for next season by “eventing” and dividing up the calendar even more. The LFP could thus sell à la carte matches, or even special days like the English Boxing Day that Amazon offered itself last Christmas across the Channel. In this sense, the agreement reached with Canal makes it possible above all to get out of a form of emergency and to take the time to establish a relationship of trust with these potential new entrants to best meet their needs.

And now ?

However, it will quickly be necessary to find a solution to the requirements of Canal, the main funder of the championship. On February 19, the Paris trade court must rule on the request made by the encrypted channel which did not accept that the League did not include the famous lot 3 in its express market consultation at the end of January. Canal still believes that it is overpaying for these two matches because the bids had soared on the blow of Mediapro’s “Monopoly” bets. Canal always asks for a global call for tenders and even suggests in-depth reforms for the championship, such as the passage to 18 Ligue 1 clubs against 20 today. An opinion shared by the new management of the LFP but not in the majority among the presidents of Ligue 1.

READ ALSO >> After the Mediapro fiasco, Canal + poses as a white knight of French football

At the LFP it is therefore still a shared feeling that reigns. If it can be satisfied to have found a short-term solution even if it means selling off its product, the management must now decide the fundamental question: should it give in to the demands of its main financier, or attempt the Moon with other players? to up the ante a bit? Mirage, blackmail, rescue, the Ligue 1 soap opera continues.


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