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Canal+ calls for new bidding process for Ligue 1 rights

Pay TV operator Canal+ has called for a new auction of French Ligue 1 football rights in the wake of the debacle of Mediapro’s acquisition of the key rights and subsequent decision to return them to the league.

Canal+ CEO Maxime Saada

In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Canal+ chief executive Maxime Saada said that his group had “finally reached the conclusion on Canal+’s side that it would be in the interest of all stakeholders to proceed via a call for tenders” and revealed that the pay TV operator had sent a letter to the French professional football league, the LFP, indicating that it planned to return the package of rights it had sub-licensed from beIN Sports as part of this.

Saada said that Canal+ was not prepared to simply take up the reins from Mediapro by means of a new agreement negotiated direct with the league, in part because it had lost confidence in those responsible for marketing the rights.

The call for a new bidding process – with Canal+ likely to be the only serious bidder – would likely result in the pay TV operator paying less, a key objective and one that reflects its strong bargaining position.

A fresh bidding process would also possibly enable Canal+ to minimise the risk of a further legal challenge from Mediapro – which has already filed a complaint that Canal+ was abusing its dominant position in pay TV in France – by creating a level playing field for any other bidders.

Mediapro is meanwhile likely to continue to air coverage of Ligue 1 until the end of this month in the absence of an alternative, despite its failure to pay for the privilege.

The current situation emerged as a result of rights-holder Mediapro’s failure to pay money owed to the LFP for Ligue 1 rights. Mediapro had called for renegotiation based on the contention that the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the nature of the game and made it impossible to turn a profit from its Téléfoot service, launched last year with much fanfare.