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Canal Plus to land beIN’s Ligue 1 rights in exclusive distribution deal

Canal Plus and beIN Sports, the French pay-TV broadcasters, have unveiled the details of a proposed exclusive distribution and sublicensing agreement, including the on-sale of French Ligue 1 broadcast rights by beIN.

The duo have announced that they have held talks over an exclusive agreement that would run for a “renewable period of five years”. The distribution agreement would take effect on June 1, 2020.

Along with the carriage of all of beIN Sports’ premium channels and their exclusive distribution to third-party operators, the Vivendi-owned broadcaster would also exclusively acquire beIN’s live Ligue 1 rights from 2020-21 to 2023-24.

News of the planned accord comes swiftly after Canal Plus and beIN secured rights to the Uefa Champions League from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

The two broadcasters said that the “contemplated agreement” would allow Canal Plus’ subscribers “to enjoy two games on each match day, including 28 of the 38 top Ligue 1 games of each season”.

During the initial sales process, beIN picked up a package of Ligue 1 rights that includes two fixtures per match week, namely the matches at 9pm on Saturday and 5pm on Sunday. That package, which also included a Saturday evening magazine programme, cost beIN €320m ($354.2m) per season.

In 2016, the Autorité de la concurrence, the French competition watchdog, rejected a proposed five-year distribution deal between Canal Plus and beIN. That deal, 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.

Competition in the French marked has heightened since the regulator’s decision, however, with the arrivals of Altice-owned RMC Sport and Mediapro, the production group and agency that secured the bulk of the Ligue 1 rights from 2020-21 onwards.

Canal Plus and beIN Sports said today that, should the agreement be finalised, then they would both “continue to respond independently to sports rights tenders”.

The two broadcasters would also retain their identities, brands and editorial autonomy, they stressed. The proposed agreement is to be submitted to beIN Sports’ employee representative bodies in France, the broadcasters said.

Sports rights also held by beIN Sports France include the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A, NBA basketball and the Men’s World Handball Championship. The broadcaster 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.

Yousef Al-Obaidly, president of beIN Sports France and chief executive of beIN Media Group, today described the proposed deal as “extremely positive for beIN Sports and for sports fans in France”.

He added: “It secures our long-term business sustainability while giving beIN Sports much more scale and reach across the French market.”

Maxime Saada, chairman of the Canal Plus group executive board, added: “We are very excited with the prospect of partnering with beIN Sports over this ambitious project, which is great news for our subscribers and all sports fans…

“…beIN Sports has an amazing sports offer which perfectly complements our own offer to please and entertain all sports fans in the country.”

In a statement, the French Professional League (LFP) said that it had taken note of today’s announcement with regards to the sublicensing of ‘lot 3’, the package of rights that includes 28 first-choice, 10 third-choice and 38 fourth-choice games. The LFP sought to underline that, of the 76 matches (per season) included in the agreement, 57 would be held exclusively by Canal Plus but 19 also broadcast by Mediapro.

The LFP added that, in accordance with the provisions of the Ligue 1 invitation to tender, it is awaiting a copy of the proposed sublicensing agreement.