"We aim for around one billion euros" of TV rights for the call for tenders in September over the period 2024-2027, announced President Vincent Labrune in an interview with the daily L'Équipe broadcast Tuesday.

"One billion, I don't believe it. In Europe, the growth of TV rights is over," says sports TV rights specialist Pierre Maës, author of "The ruin of French football" (FYP, 2022) on the Mediapro crash.

Labrune admits in the sports daily that "the macroeconomic and financial context is delicate" and that this billion "is perhaps a little optimistic".

Contacted by AFP, the LFP did not want to comment further.

French football has yet to recover from the bankruptcy of Mediapro, which had raised the rights for the 2020-2024 cycle to 1.153 billion euros per year for Ligue 1, a sum never cashed.

The LFP had to review its ambitions downwards and settle for 624 million euros per year for the L1.

In detail, Canal+ pays 332 M EUR for two matches per day, bought from beIN Sports, Prime Video, Amazon's TV, 250 M EUR for the other eight matches, and Free, 42 M EUR for the rights to the "almost direct", the best images for the customers of the telephone operator.

Without Canal+?

"TV rights in intrinsic value are worthless," says Maës, "it's worth the price that operators are willing to put in. What is the one factor that will increase the price? Competition between them".

But the LFP and Canal +, its historical operator, are cold, have quarreled in court (the LFP has never lost in court) and the pay channel may not bet at all.

"Canal still sees autumn 2023 with a certain serenity," says Maës, "they have renewed the Champions League. They have well arranged their antenna and their commercial offer by leaving Ligue 1 aside, treating it as a secondary product."

The broadcaster Canal+ covering the Ligue 1 match between Paris and Nîmes Olympique at the Parc des Princes, February 3, 2021 © FRANCK FIFE / AFP/Archives

"In France, it's a bit complicated," admits Labrune, "especially when the major player, Canal+, does not want to participate."

Amazon entered the dance in 2021 by buying the eight matches abandoned by Mediapro, but "seized an opportunity," says Maës. "The absolute fantasy for clubs is to see Gafam compete with each other. But based on what they've shown so far, I rule it out completely."

"Amazon is both smart and stingy, makes an analysis of each market, puts itself outside the competition that raises prices and buys small packages," says the Belgian economist.

"Ligue 1, the world doesn't care"

Apple, however, has bet $ 250 million per season over ten years for North American MLS, giving hope to European championships.

To progress towards this billion, Labrune wants to believe in "a significant margin of progress on the international".

For 2021-2022, the LFP has sold €96.5 million of TV rights abroad, on which it receives €81 million, according to a report of the League Board of Directors of 13 October 2021, under an agreement running until 2024 with beIN Sports, responsible for marketing these rights, which guarantees €72.5 million per year to the League, any bonuses being shared between the two, with a bigger share for beIN.

Marco Verratti's PSG against RC Strasbourg in the league at the Parc des Princes, December 28, 2022 © JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP/Archives

"It's not sure they're worth more. I apologize, but the international rights of Ligue 1, the world does not care," said Maës.

A very meager figure compared to the 1.5 billion euros that the English Premier League receives each season or even the 371 million euros of the Italian Serie A, a competitor closer to French football.

But President Labrune struggles, travels a lot abroad to sell his L1 and relies on the expertise of the powerful firm CVC, which manages with the LFP its commercial rights. Target one billion.

© 2023 AFP