French league agrees TV deal with broadcaster Canal Plus

PARIS (AP) — The French soccer league has reached a deal with broadcaster Canal Plus to show matches in the top two divisions for the rest of the season, ending weeks of uncertainty.

The LFP said in a statement Thursday that as from the 25th round of matches — Feb. 12-14 — Canal Plus has exclusive rights for all first-division games and eight matches from the second division.

No financial details were given, but French reports said Canal Plus paid 200 million euros ($240 million) for the rest of the season.

The agreement will come as a considerable relief to French soccer clubs starved of ticket sales during the coronavirus, and without TV revenue after a huge deal with Spanish-based broadcaster Mediapro collapsed.

The deal, which should have been worth more than 4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) over four years for the top two leagues, capsized after just four months.

In December, the LFP was forced to terminate its accord with Mediapro, which created a new subscription channel called Telefoot to show matches but missed scheduled payments of 172 million euros ($209 million) and 152.5 million euros ($185 million) before the plug was pulled.

Mediapro then agreed with LFP to pay 100 million euros ($122 million) in exchange for relinquishing its rights to games, thus paving the way for new a bidding round on Monday.

But all initial bids on a new tender fell short.

The LFP received offers from American-based Amazon, Discovery and DAZN to show matches from the top two divisions, but the bids fell below the required minimum.

Established French broadcaster Canal Plus and Qatar-based beIN Sports, which has been showing French games for several years, were absent from Monday’s bidding process. That strategy seemingly worked for Canal Plus, leaving the door open for direct negotiations with the LFP.

Canal Plus had previously entered into conflict with the LFP in recent weeks, demanding to hand back the rights it acquired to televise games during the initial bidding process won by Mediapro. It claimed the price paid to sublicense games from beIN Sports — 332 million euros ($400 million) per year for two games per week — was far too high given Mediapro’s failure.

Canal Plus president Maxime Saada wanted all of the rights to be returned for a new bidding process, and not just the 80% of games initially bought by Mediapro.

Canal Plus was set to take the LFP to court this month, although Thursday’s deal could change that.

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