Fall in the value of Ligue 1? Black screen ? The 4 questions (and their answers) raised by the restitution by Canal + of its TV rights

• Why did Canal + decide to return the matches for which it had the broadcasting rights?

In an interview with Figaro, Maxime Saada, chairman of the board of Canal + explains the decision of the encrypted channel by economic interests. According to him, Canal + would have overpaid lot n ° 3, which includes two matches per day in Ligue 1, since the first two lots had been acquired by Mediapro: “The value of lot 3 is overvalued due to the irrational behavior of Mediapro during the call for tenders. All the actors knew they had not won the first two lots. Lot 3 was therefore the last chance to leave with a premium package “. The encrypted channel also appears to be revengeful towards the Professional Football League: “We have not been treated properly in recent years. We are not forgetting neither the postponement of matches by the LFP without consultation during the ‘yellow vests’ movement, nor the additional money requested to postpone the kickoff of the Sunday evening match by 15 minutes, and even less the celebrations of many presidents when Canal + returned empty-handed from the 2018 call for tenders “.

This decision to put his rights in play now puts the LFP in an embarrassment. According to Pierre Maes, specialist in TV rights and author of “Football TV rights business”, Canal + ‘s intentions are clear: “The message is to show that they are in a strong position, that they are not afraid of possible new competition, and that the rights of Ligue 1 are not as essential for them as the LFP thinks. “. Mickaël Terrien, sports economist and lecturer at the Faculty of Science and Sport and Physical Education at the University of Lille joins him: “Canal + no longer needs Ligue 1. By offering a multitude of offers, they realize that they have lost almost no subscribers since they no longer have the rights to Ligue 1 “.

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• Will a new call for tenders lower the value of Ligue 1?

It’s more than likely“, answers Mickaël Terrien.”If Canal + is the only broadcaster to respond to the call for tenders, it is they who will set the prices, and they will tend towards a drop, but we do not yet know to what extent “, he argues. During the call for tenders in 2018, for the period 2020-2024, TV rights had reached 1.153 billion euros, a record, and an increase of nearly 60% compared to the previous contract. But according to Pierre Maes, “the value of the championship depends mainly on what the operators are willing to pay. If the value of Ligue 1 has increased in recent years, it is because there was great competition to acquire the rights. And today this competition no longer exists “. A large part of the TV rights being donated to the clubs, Mickaël Terrien adds that broadcasters would still have an interest in the drop in their value not being too significant: “The quality of the show offered will depend on the price they want to pay “.

• What can we expect next?

If Canal + seems confident in asking for a new call for tenders, the encrypted channel is nevertheless not immune to other players entering the Ligue 1 TV rights market, such as Amazon Prime. “We can imagine that international players come to position themselves because they tell themselves that there may be rights to be recovered at prices that will be much lower than what they may have been “, explains Pierre Maes. But the launch of a new call for tenders could take time, whereas Mediapro must stop broadcasting the championship on January 31: “The delay can be reduced if we ask operators to position themselves within a week, but that does not strengthen, for the League, the chances of receiving good offers “, comments the specialist. Is there a risk of a black screen then? “No one has an interest in it, and solutions will be found. The League can consider other alternatives, such as creating its own channel “, answers Mickaël Terrien.

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• What consequences for clubs?

TV rights represent on average 50% of the clubs budget, so it is urgent to find a solution. According to Mickaël Terrien, “this situation simply delays the time when the rights will be paid back to the clubs, but it will not change much for them, since at the moment they hardly receive anything since Mediapro stopped paying “. What about Maxime Saada’s proposal to reduce the number of professional clubs that share the income from TV rights? For Mickaël Terrien, such a reform has both advantages and disadvantages: “The more clubs there are, the more matches there are, so the product to sell is more important. But with fewer clubs, the league can also be more competitive, with teams who could increase their spending to avoid relegation. The Bundesliga works very well at 18 clubs, the Premier League works very well at 20 clubs. It’s a big debate, for which there is no answer “.

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