French watchdog dismisses Mediapro case against Canal+

In a relatively rare legal victory, France’s Canal+ Group has secured a favourable ruling from the country’s competition watchdog following a complaint by Spain’s Mediapro that it had abused its dominant position in the pay TV market.

The complaint relates to the period when Mediapro held the bulk of rights to French top-tier football – rights it was forced to return to France’s professional football league, the LFP, after failing to pay two installments of what it owned for the rights during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Mediapro had filed a complaint alleging that Canal+ had abused its position in pay TV by taking a number of measures to shut Mediapro out of the pay TV sports channel market – namely by demanding unacceptable financial and commercial terms for the distribution of Mediapro’s Téléfoot channel as well as making disparaging remarks about Mediapro’s service and implementing offers that tied in subscribers over too long a period.

The Autorité de la Concurrence said there was “no justification to mobilise significant internal resources” to examine the case, pointing out that Mediapro had already launched a separate legal action with the Tribunal de Commerce covering the same ground.

It also said that, since Mediapro’s Téléfoot channel had shut up shop in February 2021, the complaint was basically based on seeking compensation after the fact, and that the impact on consumers of Canal+’s alleged abuse was not significant.

The collapse of Mediapro’s disastrous entry into French football resulted in a spate of legal moves by Canal+ itself after the LFP re-auctioned only those rights returned to it by Mediapro, with Amazon emerging as the winner, paying a much smaller sum for 80% of live Ligue 1 matches than Canal+ had paid for a package of rights covering the remaining 20%, sublicensed by BeIN Sports.

Canal+ lost a legal challenge against the LFP over the re-auction, subsequently losing an appeal over a ruling that it should pay the LFP for the rights it held.

Canal+ also became embroiled in a legal dispute with its one-time partner, BeIN Sports, which it ultimately lost.

The fallout from the Mediapro era in French football is still being felt, with Canal+ recently refusing to take part in the latest Ligue 1 auction, alleging that the LFP favoured Amazon.

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