The LFP has secured a 23% increase in the value of the 2016-2020 rights contract to the French football league championship, with Canal Plus and BeInSports sharing the key live packages. According to French sports newspaper l'Equipe - whose parent company was one of five organisations bidding for the rights - the LFP will generate €748.5 million per season for the new contract for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, which starts in 2016/17 and runs for four years. Under the current deal, the LFP makes €607 million a season, considerably less than rival leagues in other European countries. This implies a 23% uplift in donestic revenues for the clubs.
Pay TV market leader Canal Plus, which has continuously held rights to the league since its debut in the 1980s, was awarded Lots 1 and 2, These comprise three live matches a week plus Saturday and Sunday highlights. BeInSports, backed by Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera, won Lots three to six, comprising seven live matches a week plus highlights, weekly magazine programmes and on demand rights. BeInSports also won Lot 1 for nine live matches from the second division (Ligue 2) with Canal Plus winning Lot 2, including one match a week.
Beside these two companies, offers were lodged by Eurosport, Orange and l'Equipe. The new contract means that Eurosport, owned by TF1 and Discovery Communications, loses rights to Ligue 2.
Under the present contract, which ran from 2012/13, Canal Plus has the live rights to two matches a week, while BeInSports has rights to the remaining eight matches, including six multiplex matches airing on pay-per-view
The outcome of the auction is a relative success for the league, which brought the auction process forward despite protests from several bidders. Canal Plus even took the LFP to court to try and force a delay, but failed to force a suspension for the process. While it has yet to emerge how much Canal Plus and BeInSports offered for the rights, the division of packages suggests that the pay TV group has dug a little deeper into its pockets to secure coverage of the league.
Meanwhile BeInSports, despite the backing of the oil and gas rich state of Qatar, has again proved unwilling to spend too lavishly on the league. This could be a reflection of its ambitions to build a global brand: as well as France and the Middle East, the channel is in Asia and North America, and has been strongly rumoured to be in talks to buy into Mediaset's pay TV operation in Italy. Its prudent investment ciuld also mean that with rights to the Champions League, the Spanish Primera Liga and Italy's Serie A already in its control, it does not need to dominate the offer of French domestic football.
Eurosport's loss of Ligue 2 rights suggests that even with new investment from Discovery Communications, the sports channel will continue to follow a careful policy in rights investment. The same may well be the case in Italy, where the Lega Calcio is close to launching the bidding process for the next Serie A contract from 2015/16 and where both pay TV platforms Mediaset Premium and Sky Italia are struggling to grow.
In the UK, where rights for the Premier League running from 2016/17 may be advertised later this year, further inflation in domestic football rights is considerably more likely, with BT's strong challenge to BSkyB so far meeting with success.