Canal+ to hand back Ligue 1 rights as Maxime Saada requests new tender

French pay-TV network’s president calls on LFP to offer PPV model.

by Tom Bassam

Canal+ to hand back Ligue 1 rights as Maxime Saada requests new tender
  • No deal agreed to replace Mediapro’s cancelled €815m a year rights contract
  • Saada says Spanish-based agency damaged value of Ligue 1 with reduced exposure and increased piracy

Maxime Saada, Canal+ president, has announced that the French pay-TV broadcaster is handing back its top-flight French soccer rights and called on the Professional Football League (LFP) to launch a new tender for the Ligue 1 domestic broadcast partnership.

The cancellation of Mediapro’s €815 million (US$991 million) a year broadcast deal has thrown French soccer into disarray. The Barcelona-based media company is still broadcasting games via its Téléfoot channel but there is no permanent, and more importantly paying, main broadcaster in place.

Canal+ had been expected to take on the main package at a cut fee, adding to its €330 million (US$401 million) contract for two games a week, but Saada insists such an agreement is not going to be possible. Instead Saada has said his network will hand back the rights it sublicenses from BeIN Sports, and called for a new tender, insisting that Ligue 1 rights are overvalued.

Speaking to Le Figaro, he said: “On the Canal+ side, we believe that Ligue 1 has been subsidised for many years. No broadcaster has succeeded in making it profitable.

“I believe that the Ligue 1 product has been degraded in absolute terms. First of all, for economic reasons. Broadcasting on Téléfoot greatly reduced the exposure of the competition.

“In addition, the arrival of Mediapro has contributed to the exponential growth of piracy”

He added: "There is only one way to objectively and transparently materialise the market value of Ligue 1, and that is the call for tenders.”

According to Saada, there is an imbalance in the value of Ligue 1 games, with fixtures such as Paris Saint-Germain v Marseille of significantly more interest than games involving other clubs. He therefore wants to see the LFP approve a move to a pay-per-view (PPV) model for some fixtures.

“We are going to offer the LFP a universal technical solution that will allow all French people, whether subscribers to Canal + or not, to follow the matches in pay-per-view. Of course, Canal + would donate most of the revenue to the LFP, and therefore to the clubs.”

The clubs are in dire financial straights. Jean-Marc Mickeler, president of the DNCG, French soccer's financial watchdog, said in December that Ligue 1 clubs are facing losses closer to €800 million (US$976 million) after Mediapro terminated its broadcast contract.

According to Le Parisien, PSG are facing losses of €300 million (US$366 million) for this season, although the Qatari-backed giants’ financial worries will not impact their ability to spend in the transfer market. Marseille, meanwhile, are reportedly projecting losses of €150 million (US$183 million) for this season.