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Day of reckoning for LFP as deadline for new Ligue 1 bids arrives

Today marks the deadline for tenders for the rights to top-tier French football after the French professional football body the LFP was forced to re-auction them following Spanish producer and broadcaster Mediapro’s failure to maintain payments.

The deadline arrives amid uncertainty about the outcome of the process and legal action by the most likely bidder, Canal+, against the LFP after the latter refused to re-auction all rights to Ligue 1 rather than restricting the process to those returned by Mediapro.

The LFP is faced with the prospect of failing to make its reserve price in the absence of a serious competitor to Canal+ for the rights. There has been speculation about the likelihood of Amazon making a bid. However, the latter has generally been content to position itself as a secondary player with a smaller package rather than as the primary contender for premium in-territory rights such as Ligue 1.

Observers believe Canal+ is in a strong negotiating position, not only because it is unlikely that Amazon or another player will ride to the rescue of the league, but because acquiring the rights is no longer as essential to its business model was was the case in previous years. The pay TV operator has experienced something of a bounce-back after years of decline from positioning itself as an aggregator of content from multiple sources.

France’s professional football league, the LFP, is launching a new call for offers for the rights to Ligue 1 matches that Spanish broadcaster and producer Mediapro agreed to hand back after failing to make payments agreed at the time of the previous auction.

The LFP controversially decided to call for bids only for the rights returned by Mediapro in the wake of the debacle over the latter’s failure to maintain payments, despite Canal+ chief Maxime Saada stating that the group would return the rights sub-licensed to it by beIN Sports.

Canal+ CEO Maxime Saada believes the operator overpaid for the rights it currently holds and that would in a position to bid less as part of an overall auction in the wake of the Mediapro debacle. Canal+ paid €330 million for the rights to BeIN Sports to cover the latter’s deal with the LFP for the period from 2020-24.