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Mediapro moves for Europa League after missing out on Champions League

Stade Rennes celebrate during UEFA Europa League Group E match against Lazio (Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images)

Mediapro, the agency and production group, has signed off on the acquisition of rights in France to the Uefa Europa League and new Europa Conference League across the 2021-24 cycle.

Mediapro, which is entering the French market with rights to Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, has acquired the ‘Lot B’ package of rights, comprising a total of 266 matches per season.

The rights exclude the 16 matches already secured by pay-TV broadcaster Canal Plus, namely the top-pick fixture each match week, plus the final of both competitions (‘Lot A’).

Free-to-air rights to the matches picked up by Canal Plus have yet to be awarded.

Mediapro’s move for the Europa League and Europa Conference League rights comes after it missed out on the contract for the top-tier Champions League from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

Jaume Roures, Mediapro’s chief executive, said last week that the company would not pursue legal action against Uefa over the award of those rights. Mediapro lost out to Canal Plus and subscription broadcaster beIN Sports (plus commercial free-to-air broadcaster TF1) as a total of €375m ($417.5m) per season was generated by Team Marketing, Uefa’s agency for club competitions.

Having initially threatened legal action as a result of its claim that it submitted the highest Champions League rights offer during both bidding rounds, Mediapro’s position cooled ahead of the latest submission of bids at the start of the week for the second- and third-tier competitions.

Altice, the telecoms operator, currently pays €350m per season for the exclusive rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21 to both the Champions League and Europa League. Matches are showcased by Altice on its RMC Sport subscription channels although the telecoms group also offers 15 Europa League matches per season on its free-to-air channels.

Mediapro said: “The new format of the Uefa Europa League and the upcoming Europa Conference League will get underway in the 2021-2022 season with new time slots for Thursdays and matches to be played at 4.30pm, 6.45pm and 9pm, thereby increasing the range of options available to viewers. The two competitions could host up to a maximum of six French teams.”

The Champions League/Uefa Super Cup and Europa League/Europa Conference were offered by Team in concurrent joint tenders as the agency opted to go to market early in France given the heightened competition.

Mediapro is launching subscription channels in France on the back of its €780m-per-season contract for eight Ligue 1 rights packages from 2020-21 to 2023-24. Rights to Ligue 2 have also been secured over the same period after Mediapro and beIN emerged victories in an auction process that delivered €64m per season in rights fees.

A name for the Mediapro channel has yet to be chosen, but it will not carry the Mediapro identity, Roures said last week.

He also distanced Mediapro from a bid for rights to England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga or Italy’s Serie A when they come on the market again.

He told L’Équipe: “It’s not necessary. What’s more, the prices paid here for these leagues is crazy. Paying over €100m per season for the Premier League is crazy.

“When you count the number of subscribers that these leagues bring in compared to French football, then these are not coherent prices. In Spain, DAZN bought the Premier League for €20m, [so] we let it go, it’s already too expensive.”

The addition of the Europa League rights represented a high-profile hat-trick of acquisitions for Canal Plus. In addition to the Champions League rights swoop, the broadcaster recently announced a deal with beIN to take on its French Ligue 1 rights from 2020-21 to 2023-24 as part of an exclusive distribution agreement.