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.
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.
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