Canal+ and LFP chiefs in war of words ahead of Ligue 1 rights round

Canal+France’s Canal+ and Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) have become embroiled in a war of words over the LFP’s approaching auction of rights to top-tier French football.

On June LFP president Vincent Labrune told sports paper LÉquipe that he had an ambition to reach the goal of €1 billion for the national and international rights to Ligue 1 for the 2024-28 seasons, the bidding for which is due to kick off in the autumn.

Labrune said that reaching such a goal would require a significant uptick in proceeds from the sale of international rights as the domestic rights situation was “complicated” because “the major player, Canal+, does not want to take part”.

Canal+ CEO Maxime Saada has now registered his surprise at the comments, also to L’Équipe.

Saada said that “nothing surprises” him, including the LFP’s “obsession” with reaching €1 billion, which had led to the league’s disastrous dalliance with Spanish producer and broadcaster Mediapro during the previous rights auction.

The decision to award the bulk of rights to Mediapro cost the league dear when the Spanish company was forced to return them. The rights were subsequently sold at a knock-down price to Amazon, leading to a legal dispute with Canal+, which had paid much more for a smaller tranche of second-tier rights.

The LFP currently nets €624 million a season, including €250 million from Amazon for the ex-Mediapro package comprising 80% of available matches, while Canal+ pays €332 million for two matches. Telco Free pays €42 million for ‘near-live’ rights for its Free Ligue 1 app offered to its own subscribers.

Of Labrune’s comment that his company would not participate in the new round, Saada said that this had, in fact, “really surprised” him, given that the pay TV operator had not communicated any such intention.

Saada said that the combination of Labrune’s confidence of reaching €1 billion combined with his statement that Canal+ would not participate in the auction made him wonder “if there isn’t an agreement with a distributor or platform” already in place.

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