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TF1: Rugby World Cup cancellations cost over €1m

Louis Picamoles of France after defeat during Rugby World Cup Quarter Final (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

TF1, the French free-to-air commercial broadcaster, expects to lose over €1m ($1.1m) from the cancellation of three matches at the Rugby World Cup in Japan because of Typhoon Hagibis.

France’s Pool C clash with England was one of three fixtures cancelled by World Rugby and TF1 has now outlined the level of the financial hit it has taken, while also stating that it will, as expected, lose money from its broadcasting of the tournament.

Speaking as TF1 presented its third-quarter results, Philippe Denery, the broadcaster’s executive vice-president of finance and procurement, said that it was too early to quantify the total cost of the tournament to TF1, but offered up an estimation of the fiscal impact of the cancelled games.

He remarked: “The cancellation of matches, and particularly a match like France-England, obviously represents a significant loss of income. It’s more than €1 million.”

TF1 paid around €45m for the rights to all 48 games at the 2019 tournament after taking up an option within its contract to broadcast the 2015 competition.

On the overall financial result from investing in broadcast rights and production costs, Denery added: “We’re losing money on the Rugby World Cup. It was expected and managed with foresight in the first six months of the year.

“Yes we will lose more money than expected but we will find compensation elsewhere.”

Denery added, in quotes cited by AFP, that the tournament had allowed TF1’s advertising sales arm to “continue or reconnect with certain advertisers.”

Outlining its position earlier this month as it announced the cancellation of the trio of games, which also included New Zealand against Italy and Canada versus Namibia, World Rugby said that it would hold talks with affected broadcasters over any possible compensation.

Speaking on October 10, tournament director Alan Gilpin said: “We’ll have some appropriate and sensible conversations with them about what the impacts of these decisions have been for them.”

It was reported last month that TF1 had opted to reduce the cost of advertising spots for pool games not involving France given the effect of unfavourable time difference on viewing figures. The reduction was between 10 and 20 per cent, according to Stratégies. England’s pool match against USA, for instance, was watched by just 537,000 viewers (a 5.3-per-cent share) on TMC, the TF1-owned digital terrestrial channel.

As TF1 initially unveiled its advertising and programme sponsorship prices for the tournament, a sponsorship package covering 29 matches broadcast on the main TF1 channel (including France-England) and representing a minimum of 254 “appearances” was priced at €900,000 net. That particular offer was open to up to five advertising partners.

A ‘classic’ 30-second television ad during the final was priced at €89,250 if the French team was not participating (and €256,800 if the team did take part).

TF1 recorded its highest ratings of the tournament during France’s dramatic quarter-final defeat to Wales. The broadcaster drew an average audience of 6.7 million and a 62.9-per-cent viewing share.

The semi-finals also attracted strong audience in France despite the national team having been eliminated a week earlier.

The England-New Zealand semi-final was watched by an average of 3.85 million viewers (a 45.3-per-cent viewing share) on TF1. The broadcaster’s live coverage of the South Africa-Wales match on Sunday morning was watched by 3.78 million viewers (a 42.5-per-cent share).