Cyrille de la Morinerie with AFP / Photo credit: FRANCK FIFE / AFP 14:35 p.m., September 25, 2023, modified at 14:37 p.m., September 25, 2023

Canal+, the historic broadcaster of Ligue 1, will not participate in the tender for the TV rights of the French championship over the period 2024-2029. The rights to live television broadcasting were put at a price of 800 million euros per season by the LFP on September 12. Candidates have until October 16 to position themselves.

First hitch in the plan to a billion euros: historical partner of French football, Canal + announced Monday to the Professional Football League (LFP) that it would not participate in the auction for the broadcasting of French football. "The conditions are not met today for the Canal+ group to submit an offer on October 16 and 17," wrote the chairman of the management board Maxime Saada in a letter obtained by L'Equipe. The president of the LFP Vincent Labrune, who aims for the billion TV rights for the period 2024-2029, loses one of his main potential bidders, put off in particular by a starting price set at 800 million euros the season: 530 million euros for the main lot, with three matches per day including the first two posters, and EUR 270 million for the other six matches.

The conditions of the call for tenders "have finished convincing us that your only objective was to exclude Canal + and favor Amazon," writes Maxime Saada. The leader of Canal even envisages that the LFP aims for "failure" to "free itself from the legal constraint of a call for applications in order to be able to negotiate once again directly and under perfectly opaque conditions the allocation of rights".

"Not a surprise"

The encrypted channel felt aggrieved after the bankruptcy of broadcaster Mediapro in October 2020 because it felt that its two-match package, paid €332 million, was now overvalued compared to what Prime Video was paying for the eight matches (€250 million) bought from the failing Spanish company. The L1 goes from 20 to 18 clubs from next season, so there will be nine matches per day and no longer ten. Canal has multiplied legal actions, in vain, and has been ordered by the justice to broadcast and pay.

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His withdrawal from the tender "is not a surprise" for the consultant of the television rights of the sport, Pierre Maës, interviewed by AFP. "That Canal does not make an offer equal to or greater than 530 million euros is in line with what he has always said." The auction system unveiled by the LFP on September 12 "is extremely risky. The Leagues normally make a reserve price below which they do not sell, and whether they communicate or not," adds the Belgian economist.

For him, "with such high prices there is a good chance that the leaders of the LFP will find themselves alone on October 17," he continues. "Canal does not say: +I am not interested+, but: +I will not participate in the call for tenders+ at this price", adds Pierre Maës.

"Penalize Canal+"

Questioned by AFP, the LFP replied that it does not "communicate on this subject during the tender procedure". This is the second time that the pay-TV chain, a partner of the France Championship since its launch in 1984, has not participated in a tender for the L1. It had already shunned the one on the reallocation of the lot of Mediapro, failing in October 2020, and finally fell to Prime Video, the Amazon channel.

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"Our relations with the LFP have deteriorated sharply over the years," writes Saada, who accuses the League of having leaked in L'Équipe the amounts proposed by Canal for the call for tenders in June 2021. "The confidentiality thus flouted allowed Amazon" to obtain "80% of the matches at low prices (...) You have constantly penalized Canal+." It remains for Canal an opportunity to broadcast L1 the next five seasons through its new agreement with DAZN, a sports streaming platform, which has expressed interest in the tender.

Despite the withdrawal of its historical partner, the LFP still counts on beIN Sports, holder of the rights of the two matches that Canal broadcasts following a partnership between them, Prime Video, the Amazon channel, which broadcasts the other eight matches or possible new players, such as Apple, which has offered the North American Championship (MLS) for ten seasons, to reach the dream billion.