Altice demands refund from Uefa for Champions League rights payment
Patrick Drahi, founder of Altice, the European media and telecoms group, said he “expects some money back” from Uefa, European soccer’s governing body, on the firm's Champions League rights fee with the elite clubs competition having been suspended since March because of the coronavirus.
The company presently holds exclusive live rights in France to the Champions League, as well as the Europa League, in deals worth €350 million ($383 million) per year and has already paid up for the season.
Altice, which shows the competitions through its pay-television broadcaster RMC Sport, has one year to run on its deal after which it will be replaced by pay-TV duo Canal Plus and BeIN Sports in the next cycle, with market newcomer Mediapro and commercial broadcaster M6 claiming rights to the Europa League and new third-tier Europa Conference League.
Uefa’s club competitions have been on hold since March and Drahi revealed a refund is being sought for the period without games.
On an earnings call, he said: “We already paid €175 million in July last year for the first part of the season and we paid in January another €175 million for the second part of the season.
“The problem is, I did not see anyone play since mid-March. We are not going to pay the league for something I am not getting, ok?... basically, I expect some money back, very quickly.”
Drahi has taken the stance despite Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin expressing confidence last week that the Champions League will be completed by the end of August.
In revealing its financial results for the first quarter of the year, Altice said its television revenue was “negatively impacted by the interruption of the Champions League” as it stood at €63 million, down €1 million from the same stage last year.
The Champions League was halted at the round of 16 stage, with four fixtures still to be concluded, including that involving French participant Lyon. Paris Saint-Germain are already through to the quarter-final.
Overall, Altice's revenue for the quarter was up 3.6 per cent to €3.6 billion.
Drahi described Altice’s first quarter results as “a solid performance against this challenging backdrop.”
The telecoms group this week revealed it will be scaling back its sports rights deals in France as part of a restructuring plan to deal with the financial impact of the global health emergency.
The company said it will reassess its entire media business, with sports one of the key areas in which it will cut investments.
Altice will initially cease its rights in athletics, tennis and horse racing but will continue to show soccer until its present deals expire, which also includes England’s Premier League in an agreement until 2022.