Canal and beIN complete exclusive distribution, Ligue 1 sublicensing deal

MONACO, MONACO - FEBRUARY 16: Edgar Ie of Nantes wins the ball in-front of Cesc Fabregas of Monaco during the Ligue 1 match between AS Monaco and FC Nantes at Stade Louis II on February 16, 2019 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

French pay-television broadcasters Canal Plus and beIN Sports have announced the formal completion of their exclusive distribution and Ligue 1 sub-licensing deal.

Under the deal, which was first unveiled in December, Canal Plus will carry all beIN Sports’ premium channels within its own television packages and exclusively distribute beIN Sports to third-party operators in France.

Canal Plus also exclusively acquires beIN’s live Ligue 1 rights from 2020-21 to 2023-24. The rights, which cost beIN €320m ($349.3m) per season, include two fixtures per match week — namely the matches at 9pm (CET) on Saturday and 5pm on Sunday — as well as a Saturday-evening magazine programme.

The agreement allows Canal to retain coverage of Ligue 1 when its existing deal with rights-holder the French Professional League (LFP) expires at the end of this season.

The exclusive distribution and sub-licensing deal takes effect from June 1 and runs for a renewable period of five years.

Canal Plus and beIN Sports will retain their individual identities, brands and editorial autonomy, and respond independently to sports rights tenders, according to the companies.

The deal was formalised after being submitted to beIN Sports’ employee representative body.

‘Radical change’

Yousef Al-Obaidly, president of beIN Sports France and chief executive of beIN Media Group, said on Wednesday that the partnership is “a major step in our ambitious long-term growth plans for France”.

He added: “The French sports TV market faces a fascinating few years ahead as the over-crowded market inevitably undergoes some radical change.”

Canal Plus and beIN are two of the four main players in the French pay-television market, alongside new-entrant Mediapro and telco Altice. Pan-regional broadcaster Eurosport is also a major part of the French market.

But the future of the Altice’s RMC Sport channels, at least, is in doubt after Altice failed to retain its Uefa club competition rights for the 2021-24 cycle, which was swiftly followed by the departure of RMC Sport’s chief executive.

Canal Plus and beIN secured the rights to the Uefa Champions League from 2021-22 to 2023-24 in last year’s tender.

Maxime Saada, Chairman of the Canal Plus Group Executive Board, said on Wednesday that the beIN sports offer “perfectly complements our own one”.

In 2016, the Autorité de la concurrence, the French competition watchdog, rejected a proposed five-year distribution deal between Canal Plus and beIN. That accord, which included carriage of the beIN channels on the Canal+ and CanalSat platforms, plus the option for Canal Plus to take a stake in beIN Sports France, was reported to be worth €300m per year.

BeIN Sports has around 3.5 million subscribers in France and has struggled to achieve profitability since launching in the French market in 2012 (as Al Jazeera Sport).

Along with Canal Plus, the beIN Sports channels are currently available on the platforms of telecoms operators Bouygues Telecom, Free, Orange and SFR, along with satellite broadcaster Fransat. Sports rights also held by beIN Sports France include the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A, NBA basketball and the Men’s World Handball Championship.