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Ligue 1 rights drama reaches climax as LFP and Mediapro call off deal

The domestic broadcasting of France’s Ligue 1 has been thrown into disarray, with Mediapro agreeing to cancel its €814 million per season deal.

This comes after the Sino-Spanish company failed to pay two rights installments worth a combined €324.8 million on October 5 and December 5. RMC reports that Mediapro will pay €100 million in compensation for failing to meet the terms of the contract, with the Professional Football League (LFP) agreeing to not pursue any further legal action.

Elsewhere in the French press, L’Equipe reports that Mediapro’s boss for the country Julien Bergeaud has told staff at the league’s dedicated Teléfoot channel that it will be shut down, with 160 people losing their jobs as a result. It was believed that Teléfoot would continue to broadcast matches until the LFP agreed a new broadcast deal, but a spokesperson for Mediapro confirmed to Reuters that the channel will cease broadcasting from December 23.

Mediapro won the rights in 2018 in what was considered to be a major coup in broadcasting. Replacing the incumbent major rights holder Canal+, Mediapro agreed to pay €780 million per season for three years of Ligue 1 and an extra €34 million for Ligue 2.

The company however only made the first of its repayments in August, before holding off on the demand of a renegotiated deal. Mediapro reportedly was seeking a discount of between €170-200 million for the 2020/21 season due to the impact of Covid-19, and offered to extend its deal for two years in exchange.

The LFP meanwhile was forced to take out loans from the government to cover the payments to clubs, and was unwilling to renegotiate. The French government said that it would not provide any further funding, indicating that December was make-or-break for the fledgling partnership.

Looking forward, it looks likely that the LFP may turn back to Canal+, which currently holds a smaller rights package via a sublicencing deal with beIN worth €330 million per season. The LFP however will struggle to match the income it made from Mediapro though, with Canal+ boss Maxime Saada previously calling that deal ‘untenable’. It is believed that the Vivendi-owned Canal+ is prepared to offer €690 million per season for all of Ligue 1’s TV rights, with a fixed sum of €590 million and an additional €100 million from subscription-related bonuses.