Latest attempt at new TV deal for French soccer collapses

·2 min read

French soccer’s latest attempt to replace a collapsed TV rights deal failed on Monday when bids on a new tender fell short.

The news will have depressed already-strained clubs who are facing severe financial hardship from empty stadiums during the coronavirus pandemic.

The French league said it received offers from American-owned Amazon, Discovery and DAZN to show matches from the top two divisions, but said all of the bids fell below the minimum required.

“Given that the reserve price has not been met, the consultations (bids) have been declared unsuccessful,” the league said in a statement on Monday. “The LFP gives itself 48 hours to define the next steps to take in the commercialization of its rights.”

Traditional broadcaster Canal Plus and beIN Sports, which has been showing French games for several years, were tellingly absent from the bidding process.

French soccer remains mired in financial uncertainty months after a huge broadcast rights deal with Mediapro fell through. What should have been worth more than 4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) over four years for the top two leagues capsized after just four months.

In December, the LFP was forced to terminate its accord with Mediapro, which created a new subscription channel called Telefoot to show matches but missed scheduled payments of 172 million euros ($209 million) and 152.5 million euros ($185 million) before the plug was pulled.

The Spanish-based conglomerate Mediapro then agreed with LFP to pay 100 million euros ($122 million) so it could relinquish its rights to games, thus paving the way for the bidding rights at the league's Paris headquarters on Monday morning.

Established French broadcaster Canal Plus seemed to many observers as the likeliest buyer for the newly returned rights. Instead, it entered into conflict with the LFP in recent weeks, demanding to hand back the rights it acquired to televise games during the initial bidding process won by Mediapro.

Canal Plus claimed the price paid at the time to sublicense games from beIN Sports — 332 million euros ($400 million) per year for only two games each week — was far too high given Mediapro's ensuing meltdown.

Canal Plus president Maxime Saada wanted all of the rights to be returned for a new bidding process, and not just the 80% of games initially bought by Mediapro.

The LFP did not agree, Canal Plus took legal action, and they will meet in court this month.


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