LFP gives green light for Ligue 1 TV rights auction
By Martin Ross
The LFP, the French professional league, is to launch the invitation to tender for domestic broadcast rights to Ligue 1 from 2020-21 to 2023-24.
The league held a press conference this evening in Paris to announce the launch of the domestic rights sales process after it was unanimously approved at the league’s board meeting.
Following a question and answer stage between 7 and 17 May, interested broadcasters will be asked to lodge their 'qualitative' offers on 28 May and financial offers 24 hours later. The process will be re-launched at a later stage if bids are deemed unsatisfactory, the LFP noted.
It emerged earlier this week that the LFP was close to issuing its invitation to tender after comments made by Didier Quillot, the league’s executive general director, to members of the executive committee at the FFF, the French football federation.
As expected, the LFP has introduced a Sunday 1pm (CET) kick-off slot in order to appeal to an audience in Asia. A match will also take place on Saturdays at the 9pm primetime slot and there will be a 'multiplex' of four games at 3pm on Sundays.
The LFP announced this evening that there will be four ‘main’ packages of live rights to the 10 games per match week, along with three additional packages (including magazine and digital rights).
The first package includes live rights to the flagship Sunday 9pm game (plus two magazine programmes), while the second package comprises rights to the Friday 9pm and Saturday 5pm fixture.
The third package also includes rights to two matches per week, namely the Saturday 9pm and Sunday 5pm fixtures, along with rights to the Saturday evening magazine programme.
Meanwhile, the fourth package includes rights to the remaining five games per week, including the new Sunday 1pm game and the four games at 3pm on Sundays. That package also includes the Sunday morning magazine show.
Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 rights in the current cycle (2016-17 to 2019-20) were sold to BeIN Sports and Canal Plus for a total of €748.5 million ($912.1 million) per season, and the clubs are targeting at least €1 billion per season from 2020-21 onwards, looking to capitalise on the heightened interest (and viewing figures) following the arrival of Brazilian star Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain.
In the 2014 auction, Canal Plus bought three Ligue 1 rights packages (including the top two packages), paying €540 million per year and keeping the top games. BeIN picked up rights to three packages for €186.5 million per season as the value of Ligue 1's domestic rights rose by 20 per cent in comparison to the previous cycle
Full details of the Ligue 1 rights packages for the new cycle can be found here.
Last year, the LFP toyed with the idea of a snap rights auction to maximise competition between the pay-TV trio of BeIN Sports, Canal Plus and SFR Sport, before then opting to wait until at least the first quarter of 2018.
Last month’s clash between Nice and Paris Saint-Germain was re-scheduled to 1pm and the experiment appeared to pay dividends as the match attracted a total of 1.6 million viewers in China, 16 times higher than the average for a Ligue 1 match.
Since then, the French top flight has guaranteed itself increased audiences in China after a long-term rights deal was signed with state broadcaster CCTV.
The league’s original plans for the invitation to tender were revised chiefly because of the financial difficulties encountered by Altice, the telecoms giant that owns SFR, and the desire not to destabilise current broadcast partners.
Yves Wehrli, managing partner at Clifford Chance, the LFP’s legal adviser, told L’Equipe: “It was necessary to launch [the tender] sufficiently early in order to afford the possibility to return to the market if necessary in 18 months. The longer we wait, the less we can do it.”
Speaking in September last year, Yousef Al-Obaidly, president of BeIN Sports France, said that he would prefer the LFP to wait until “as late as possible” to begin its domestic rights sales process.
Meanwhile, rights to Ligue 2 are to be auctioned in a separate process before the end of the year.