TV rights deal: is football off the hook?



► How did Canal + win the bid?

It was a very small door at the end of the dead end. But all the players concerned ended up finding it and rushing into it urgently: the agreement signed on February 4 by the Professional Football League (LFP) and Canal + ensures at least the next few months by unwinding the ball of TV rights tangled since their retrocession by Mediapro in December 2020. The new call for tenders launched by the LFP having been declared “unsuccessful” at the beginning of the week and Canal + having refused to negotiate by mutual agreement, all the emergency exits seemed closed.

→ THE FACTS. TV rights: Canal + saves French football

But the boss of Canal +, Maxime Saada, finally picked up his phone to actually negotiate with Vincent Labrune, the president of the LFP. Not on all rights for the period 2020-2024, but to save the essentials this season. For around 200 million euros, Canal + recovers all of the 80% of rights abandoned by Mediapro, from next week until the end of May.

→ DEBATE. Can French football go bankrupt?

This sum includes the payment in advance of its rights sublicensed by BeIn Sport to Canal + to broadcast two posters per weekend, or 165 million euros, plus an extension of 35 million euros. For this very modest price, Canal + is once again becoming the football channel broadcasting all of Ligue 1. A first since 2008.

► What consequences for the clubs?

With the jackpot promised by Mediapro, French football was to collect 1.2 billion euros per year. For this season after the agreement with Canal +, here are the domestic rights reduced in total by 40%, to just under 700 million euros. Almost the sums collected in TV rights over the period 2008-2012. Suffice to say that the shortfall is cringe. “This agreement was the only one possible. But it confirms the reality of a scenario of major financial crisis for French professional football ”, lamented Loïc Ferry, the president of Lorient, in the columns of The Team.

For some clubs, whose budgets depend on 50 to 75% of television revenues (Angers, Dijon, Reims, Nîmes), the coming months are shaping up to be very tight. Especially since crossing the sanitary desert obviously complicates the situation. The clubs are still forced for weeks behind closed doors, and the lackluster winter transfer window does little to encourage optimism for future summer transfers. The issue of lower wages is bound to come up again. If negotiations are underway, few clubs, like RC Lens at the end of January, have reached agreements.

► And for the rest?

The agreement reached is only valid for this season. Does it augur the definitive return of Canal + as a historic football channel? Amateurs will temporarily be pleased to find a clearer television offer, no longer forcing more subscriptions.

→ READ. Football: which channel for which match? The TV rights puzzle

For the rest, the ball is again in the camp of the LFP. It can take the time to negotiate over-the-counter, in particular with the new entrants who participated in its call for tenders: Amazon, the DAZN streaming platform and Discovery, the parent company of Eurosport. But Canal + would then have to continue paying its sublicensed rights to BeIN, a solution that Canal + already refuses, with an appeal on which the Paris Commercial Court must rule on February 19.

The other solution would be to relaunch, as Canal + wishes, a global call for tenders for the period 2021-2025. Will Canal + also take this decision?

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