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Canal+ in talks with beIN for exclusive Ligue 1 distribution and sublicensing

Canal+ has entered into talks with beIN Sports with a view to entering into an exclusive distribution and sublicensing deal in France, the Qatar broadcaster has said. 

In a release issued on Monday, the broadcaster said that the proposed agreement would offer beIN Sports’ premium channels and content while also being the exclusive distributor of beIN Sports to third-party providers across all platforms in France from June 2020.  

The deal would also see beIN sublicense its Ligue 1 rights for the 2020-24 cycle, meaning Canal+ would broadcast two games each matchday. 

BeIN suggested that the deal would be mutually beneficial for both parties. Canal+ would gain access to an “outstanding rights portfolio” while beIN Sports “would benefit from the expertise, distribution know-how and infrastructure of Canal+ to establish much broader scale and reach across the French market,” beIN said.

The release stresses that both parties would retain their identities, branding and editorial autonomy and that they would continue to respond independently to sports rights tenders. 

Yousef Al-Obaidly, president of beIN SPORTS Sports and CEO of beIN Media Group, said: “This deal would be extremely positive for beIN Sports and for sports fans in France. It secures our long-term business sustainability while giving beIN Sports much more scale and reach across the French market. I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved in France in such a short time since our launch in 2012. 

“Effectively we’ve grown the business from a start-up to be one of the leading sports broadcasters in the country. And we have ambitious and long-term plans to grow the business even further in France, of which this partnership is an important first step.”

The five-year exclusive agreement would serve as something of a lifeline for Canal+, which will lose its title as Ligue 1’s primary domestic broadcaster at the end of the season. Spain’s Mediapro will air most of the games, swooping in with a deal worth €1.15 billion per season.

It should also help to reduce ongoing subscriber losses. Vivendi-owned Canal+ Group, which completed its acquisition of M7 Group in September, saw an overall increase in subscriber numbers in Q3, but suffered losses in France where individual subscriber numbers decreased slightly from 8.1 million to 7.9 million year-over-year.

Maxime Saada, chairman of the Canal+ Group executive board, said: “We are very excited with the prospect of partnering with beIN SPORTS over this ambitious project, which is great news for our subscribers and all sports fans. Thanks to this deal, Canal+ would continue to broadcast Ligue 1 beyond the current season with 28 of the top 38 games of each season exclusive until 2024.”

Saada also told French paper Le Figaro that the company would pay €330 million for the sublicensing arrangement.

The news follows the announcement that the pair were successful in a joint bid for the rights to the UEFA Champions League in France for the 2021-24 seasons.

The deal leaves existing rights holder Altice France and Spanish disruptor Mediapro out in the cold. Free-to-air broadcaster TF1 has meanwhile secured the rights to air the final of the competition. 

Canal+ secured two premium packages, marking its return as a rights-holder to the competition. The pay TV broadcaster will air the two top fixtures each Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as airing a post-0match magazine show. The pay TV broadcaster will also show the Super Cup between the winners of the Champions League and the Europa League. BeIN Sports will air the competition’s other matches.