Canal Plus has been left empty-handed in the auction for domestic rights to French football from 2020, with Mediapro winning the bidding for three of seven packages of live rights and BeInSports, which currently shares live rights with Canal Plus, securing one package. Telecoms operator Free won a package of digital rights. The LFP said the value of rights so far sold for 2020-24 is €1.153.5 billion ($1,345 billion), an increase of 60% on the 2016-2020 cycle.
Spain’s Mediapro, which earlier this week saw its deal for rights to Serie A terminated, was awarded rights to matches kicking off at 9pm on Friday and Sunday nights (both currently held by Canal Plus), as well as afternoon matches on Saturday and Sunday.
BeInSports was awarded one package of matches on Saturday at 9pm and Sunday afternoon. Free won a a package of digital rights to non-live highlights and on demand magazine content. Two packages are still to be attributed.
Canal Plus, which has held rights to Ligue 1 since 1984, said it would explore the possibility of sublicensing rights to Ligue 1 from 2020/21 and would also explore partnerships with rights holders on the lines of its deal with BeInSports, which Canal Plus sells as part of a premium sports bouquet. Management of the group said it had made an offer for each of the seven packages but was outbid on each one (and presumably did not match the LFP's reserve price for the two unattributed packages).
The emergence of Mediapro in the auction is a major coup for the LFP, which has not been able to persuade Canal Plus and BeInSports to significantly increase their payments for domestic media rights in the last two auctions, and has not been able to attract the debt-ridden Altice group to enter the field. The 60% increase in rights revenue from 2020-24 is of a similar order to the inflation seen in the last auction for Bundesliga rights in Germany and the 2016-19 Premier League auction in the UK.
It is not a foregone conclusion that Canal Plus will lose the rights to Ligue 1 altogether, as it will still have the possibility of sub-licensing live rights and to wholesale whatever channel - whether one operated by Mediapro or another partner - to its subscribers. However, a loss would leave a big hole in the primetime schedule of its flagship Canal Plus channel (which is a mixed genre service like HBO). Having shed more than one million customers over the three years, Canal Plus is the outstanding European victim of cord-cutting.
However, it is not immediately clear how the Spanish group will make a return on its rights investment given the current spending restraints in place at Canal Plus and SFR's financial issues. BeInSports, already a partner of Mediapro in Spain, has also been reluctant to overpay for rights so far.