Proximus and RTL renew Champions League deals in Belgium
Proximus and RTL, respectively, the telecoms operator and French-language free-to-air commercial network in Belgium, have retained rights in the country to European club soccer's top-tier Uefa Champions League, but the second-tier Europa League will move to RTBF, the French-speaking public-service broadcaster, next season.
The three-season deals run from 2018-19 when Uefa will introduce two separate kick-off times for the elite competition: 7pm (CET) and 9pm. Two games per match day will be played at the earlier slot, with the remaining six games starting two hours later.
The rights sales process was launched in Belgium on 31 October, with the Team Marketing agency handing broadcasters a first-round bid deadline of 10am (CET) on 29 November.
Proximus presently offers 146 live Champions League games per season, 112 on an exclusive basis, plus highlights, while RTL, which has held Champions League rights in Belgium since 2000, televises 34 first-choice matches, including those of participating Belgian teams, each season.
RTL also shows Europa League matches in Belgium in the present cycle, along with telecoms operator Telenet, but it is understood the broadcaster did not submit a bid for rights to the second-tier competition for the 2018-19 to 2020-21 period.
Instead, the Europa League will be shown free to air in Belgium by RTBF, which will televise two games each match week, at 7pm (CET) and 9.05pm.
RTBF has not shown the Europa League since 2008-09, losing the rights when it was outbid by AB3, the private commercial broadcaster.
Strict listed events legislation in Belgium ensures coverage of the market’s teams on free-to-air television, and this has prevented Team from awarding more exclusivity to pay-TV operators.Earlier this week, Ziggo, the telecoms and cable operator in neighbouring Netherlands, won a package of Champions League rights from next season. The operator currently shows Champions League games behind a pay wall on its Ziggo Sport Totaal subscription channels, but, in the next cycle, will be able to offer some games on its ‘free’ Ziggo Sport channel available to all customers.
The major free-to-air rights package in the Netherlands remains unsold for the next cycle following unsatisfactory first-round bids received by the 27 November deadline.
• Leading Belgian club Anderlecht is close to being sold to Belgian pharmaceutical entrepreneur Marc Coucke. The Brussels-based team is owned by a group of investors headed by the Vanden Stock family, which has been seeking €100 million ($119 million) for its stake, according to reports in the country.
Coucke founded over-the-counter medicines group Omega Pharma, which he sold to US company Perrigo in late 2014 for €3.6 billion. He also owns Belgian club KV Oostende and previously had a stake in France's Lille, while his company was a title sponsor of professional cycling team Quick Step.