Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credits: FRANCK FIFE / AFP 16:01 p.m., October 17, 2023None of the lots of Ligue 1 TV rights for the period 2024-2029 were awarded at auction on Tuesday, the Professional Football League announced. Neither Amazon Prime Video, nor beIN Sports, nor the sports streaming platform DAZN wanted to match the 800 million euros per season requested by the league to participate in the auction.
French football suffered a first setback on Tuesday in the sale of its 2024-2029 TV broadcasting rights as none of the lots offered by the Professional Football League (LFP) found a buyer, opening a period of private negotiations with high uncertainty. The billion euros so coveted by the president of the LFP Vincent Labrune, counting the foreign rights marketed in parallel, is for the moment a mirage.
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Neither Amazon Prime Video, beIN Sports nor sports streaming platform DAZN wanted to match the 800 million euros per season requested by the league to participate in Tuesday's auction for domestic rights. On the other hand, this failure potentially allows the Canal+ group, which had refused to participate in the auction, to return to the table. "After having received several qualitative offers and financial guarantee schemes on all lots 1 to 5, LFP Media indicates that none of the five lots has been awarded today, in accordance with the provisions of the Ligue 1 call for applications," the LFP wrote in a statement early this afternoon.
The latter had set a price for the first two lots, which concern the live broadcasting of the matches, at €530 million for Lot 1 containing the two most beautiful posters and the N.4 choice of each matchday, and at €270 million for Lot 2 which includes the other six matches. These amounts are considered significant by most observers of the sports economy, while the rights for the previous period amounted to only €624 million per season.
Negotiations between the LFP and the interested media will now begin, and could last several weeks. The current main broadcaster Prime Video, beIN Sports, which for part of the 2010s held this role, and DAZN are among the hoped-for candidates.
Reconciliation coming with Canal+?
The hypothetical candidacies of multinationals such as Apple did not take place "to save" the LFP, a source in one of the media outlets concerned said ironically in private. "It seems that the LFP is finally paying for the Mediapro mess," she continued. The Sino-Spanish broadcaster Mediapro, which had invested €800 million to acquire the 2020-2024 rights, finally went bankrupt in October 2020.
DAZN, which already holds rights in the German, Spanish, Italian and Belgian leagues, did not wish to comment for the time being. But the sports streaming platform should be determined to start talks with the LFP, which said it was "the best choice" to AFP in September. The sequence that is beginning is nevertheless very uncertain for the League and, through it, for the professional football clubs whose finances depend directly on the television windfall.
"You have not stopped penalising Canal+"
However, this scenario had been considered by the LFP. A source close to his management had confided in mid-September that he was not afraid of private negotiations, as Vincent Labrune had already proceeded in this way in the past. Will we see reconciliations with Maxime Saada? The chairman of the board of directors of the Canal+ group had no words harsh enough to justify his refusal to participate in the auction, in a letter to Vincent Labrune unveiled by L'Équipe at the end of September. The conditions of the call for tenders "have convinced us that your only objective was to exclude Canal+ and to favor Amazon," he wrote, before adding: "You have not ceased to penalize Canal+."
The encrypted channel had felt aggrieved after Mediapro's bankruptcy, as it believed that its batch of two matches per day, paid €332 million, was now overvalued compared to what Prime Video was paying for the other eight matches (€250 million) - now seven - bought from the failing Spanish company. Canal+ had taken the LFP to court, but to no avail. Responding to the letter, the leaders of the Professional Football League had "regretted" Canal+'s decision and denounced "assertions or insinuations (...) of particular gravity." A conflict in the public arena that does not prevent private negotiations in absolute terms.