The Autorité de la Concurrence (AC), France’s competition authority, has turned down appeals by Canal Plus and BeIN Sports, two pay-TV broadcasters in the country, over the awarding of top-tier domestic soccer rights to Amazon last year.
In advance of the 2021-22 season of French soccer’s premium Ligue 1, the country’s LFP governing body for the sport awarded rights to eight games per game week to Amazon until 2024. Canal Plus shows the other two weekly fixtures through a sub-licensing deal with BeIN that, crucially, had already been struck.
Both Canal Plus and BeIN took claims to the AC that the LFP had abused a dominant position in awarding the rights to Amazon in June last year. The LFP had put the packages up for tender in the first place after the collapse of an existing deal with the Mediapro agency.
Now, however, the AC has rejected these claims. In a ruling made yesterday (November 30), the regulator said that the Canal Plus and BeIN claims were “insufficient to conclude that the LFP had abused its dominant position by treating them differently from Amazon in the procedure for re-awarding the Mediapro lots …”
The main gripe from the two pay-TV broadcasters came because of the price Amazon is paying – €250 million ($258 million) per year for the eight games each game week as opposed to the annual fee of €332 million for the two matches Canal Plus is sub-licensing from BeIN.
In July this year, Canal Plus was court-ordered to honor that BeIN contract.
The AC found that the LFP’s re-awarding of the rights previously held by Mediapro was not discriminatory, as all broadcasters had an equal chance to bid. Amazon covers the action on its Prime Video service.
The AC also found that because Amazon had snapped up its rights in 2021, while BeIN had secured its sole rights package in 2018 (the original date of rights being awarded to Mediapro), there was no necessity for the LFP to take the price into account.
The regulator pointed out that Canal Plus and BeIN both had “the opportunity to take part in the 2021 tender, which they chose not to do … They could have bid jointly to take over …”
The AC said that it “rejected the complaints … for lack of sufficient evidence and, as a result, the requests [from BeIN and Canal Plus] for interim measures.”
The French competition body also said that the decision by the LFP to award the main package of rights to Amazon last year ensured “the maintenance of the presence of several competing broadcasters and the entry of a new player on the market for the acquisition of Ligue 1 broadcasting rights.”
The current rights situation in France runs through until the end of the 2023-24 campaign, with a tender for rights from then on until 2028 expected to launch in the latter part of 2023.
Aside from its live rights deals with Amazon and Canal Plus (through BeIN), the LFP has a deal in place with telecommunications firm Free for near-live rights to all games.
In April, Free made a similar claim against the LFP over the value of its rights deal.
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