TV rights: does French football deserve such a discount?



Drawn, really. Between those who participate on the tip of the crampons and those who for the moment refuse to enter the lawn, three everywhere, the ball in the center, and the Professional Football League (LFP) does not quite know how to whistle the end of the game poker liar on his television rights.

→ READ. Football: the League launches a “consultation” until February 1 for its TV rights

Closing Monday 1er February its call for tenders to reallocate the rights recently abandoned by Mediapro, the LFP did have a few envelopes to open, but in the sender box, not the slightest trace of Canal +, BeIN Sport or RMC Sport, the three football broadcasters major in France. On the other hand, three new names have appeared: Amazon, the DAZN streaming platform and the American group Discovery, parent company of Eurosport. Little consolation. The sums proposed by them are not up to the hopes of the LFP. The call for tenders is therefore judged “Unsuccessful”. Forward to a new period of negotiation and uncertainty.

A championship that purrs

What should we deduce from it? A decline in interest in French football, or at least such a degradation of the “product” that no one rushes to buy it almost without counting? “There is first of all a cyclical effect, with a Ligue 1 weakened by the Covid, and especially an LFP discredited by its management of the Mediapro file, which reverses the balance of power with broadcasters, foremost among which Canal +, who now see the possibility of recovering matches for very little money, underlines the economist Jérémie Bastien, lecturer at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne. But there are also structural problems, with the increased competition from foreign leagues, a model of championship which purrs and which struggles to seduce, especially young people. “

The poor quality of Ligue 1 compared to the “big” foreign leagues is often singled out. Even the French posters – the classic PSG-Marseille or the derbies like Lyon-Saint-Étienne – do not weigh heavily against the series duels of the Premier League across the Channel. “Faced with increasingly deterritorialized consumers, broadcasters have played the card of retransmissions of foreign championships, and this has accentuated the lack of interest in Ligue 1, even if this substitution effect is still poorly measured”, comments Jérémie Bastien.

The domination of PSG in recent years is also highlighted. But suspense is not on the agenda either in Italy where Juventus has monopolized the national title for nine years, in Germany where Bayern Munich has reigned continuously for eight years, or in Spain where the mano a mano between Barcelona and Real Madrid rarely leave room for other contenders. Only the Premier League maintains the glorious uncertainty of sport. But any comparison with the Premier League is necessarily unfavorable …

Innovate to attract young people

The lack of appetite of young people is in fact much more worrying. For years, a whole segment of the public has turned away from sports in general, and football in particular. In autumn 2020, a study by the European Club Association (ECA) carried out in seven countries (but not in France) revealed that barely 28% of 16-24 year olds said they were “Fans” football, when 39% were “Not to be interested in it at all”, even ” to hate “ discipline.

Figures that leave sports economist Pierre Rondeau skeptical: “Firstly because among the youngest, the passion for football is still largely in the majority, he says. Then because I think that 18-25 year olds, more than a lack of interest in football, are characterized by a different mode of consumption. There is also a real success of podcasts, some productions on YouTube, on Twitch video streaming. The Fifa game remains the best-selling leisure product in France. If young people are turning away from the broadcasting of matches, it is because of competition from other leisure activities, such as series for example, and the too high price of the various subscriptions to pay. ” Tariffs which largely explain a strong increase in piracy and which would represent more than a billion euros in losses for broadcasters who, necessarily, take it into account in their downward calculations.

“It is not the young people who are turning away from football, it is the products that they are given to see that no longer correspond to their expectations, adds Jérémie Bastien. We should be inspired for example by the American NBA, which offers multiple short sequences. Not just the best baskets of his basketball players, but the best passes, the best blocks, etc. French football remains on a traditional model which lacks innovations. The broadcasters themselves must question themselves. “

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An endless soap opera

After declaring “unsuccessful” its call for tenders for the 80% of rights retroceded by Mediapro, the LFP decided to “48 hours to define the next steps in the commercialization of rights”. It can now negotiate over-the-counter with the players who applied for the call for tenders (Amazon, DAZN, Dicovery) or even with those absent, especially Canal + and BeIN. Canal + is currently sticking to its position: the group is contesting the call for tenders which did not take into account the 20% of rights owned by BeIN but sublicensed to Canal + for 332 million euros per year, a rate that Canal + now considers prohibitive. The Paris Commercial Court is due to rule on this case on February 19.

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