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Mediapro’s Ligue 1 rights deal ‘untenable’ says Canal+ president

Canal+ CEO Maxime Saada

Canal+ president Maxime Saada has called Mediapro’s broadcast rights deal with the French Professional Football League (LFP) “untenable.”

The body running the top-flight Ligue 1 is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Spanish agency Mediapro over non-payment of its second €172 million rights fee installment. Mediapro has seen its credit rating downgraded as a result, but is still arguing that the deal should be renegotiated in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and its subsequent impact on the economy.

Speaking to Les Echos, the Canal+ president warned the LFP that it would not swoop in to pick up the pieces should Mediapro default on its contract. He said: “There is no question of plunging Canal+ into the red by reinvesting at a loss in football”.

Saada said that Mediapro is “damaging the image, the quality and ultimately the value” of the league, and gave a somewhat cynical take on the Spanish company’s operations, saying: “There is always someone that thinks they will be able to make better use of the rights by paying more than Canal+. TPS, then Orange, then BeIN Sports, then Altice and finally Mediapro. I have always thought that the economic equation was untenable given the price paid for the rights.”

Mediapro has launched a dedicated French football channel called Teléfoot, and is targeting 3.5 million subscribers, but has underwhelmed with 600,000 subscribers to date. Saada had previously argued that Teléfoot would need to amass close to seven million subscribers paying at least €15 per month in order to make any money off the investment.

Canal+, recovering from the 2018 loss of the Ligue 1 rights, has seen its subscriber base grow “for the first time in a long time,” Saada said. The group’s ‘total subscriber portfolio’ reached 20.4 million in the latest quarter, up from 19 million last year, including 8.6 million subscriptions in France.