The future of the long-term broadcast partnership for France’s top-tier LNB Elite basketball competition has been thrown into doubt after the competition’s rightsholder, French media outlet and broadcaster L’Equipe, sent a letter to basketball-focused OTT platform Skweek, the competition’s streaming broadcaster, seeking to terminate the partnership altogether.  

In recent weeks, Skweek made public the fact that it is facing issues in making rights payments to the LNB as a result of business issues stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Skweek is owned by Fedcom Group, a conglomerate owned by Russian-born Hungarian-Monegasque businessman Alexey Fedorychev, who operates in Ukraine and has seen his business impacted by the conflict.

Speaking to Sportcal (GlobalData Sport) earlier this week (April 15), Skweek chief executive Oleg Petrov stated his belief that the issue would be resolved in due course, with Fedcom already on the way to paying off the reported debt of between €2 million and €3 million ($2.1 million and $3.1 million).

Now, L’Equipe, which sublicenses the rights to Skweek and owns the company that executively produces all LNB Elite matches (21 Production), has sought to terminate Skweek’s broadcast contract.

The letter alleged that 21 Productions had been covering the cost of producing LNB Elite matches for several months due to the non-payment of production costs by Skweek, and as it can no longer shoulder that burden it is seeking to terminate the partnership altogether.

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Reports of the letter were confirmed by Skweek, who published a statement rallying against the potential termination of the broadcast contract that is set to run through 2029, a termination that would risk a broadcast blackout for France’s top domestic basketball league.

Skweek stated on its social media channels that it was “surprised” to receive the letter, adding that “Fedcom Media has paid in full all the sum due under this sub-license agreement” and as such the dispute was an internal one between Skweek and 21 Productions.

The release stated: “The termination of this sub-license agreement is mistakenly based on the existence of a dispute between Fedcom Media and 21 Production. The difficulties encountered by Fedcom Media and one of its service providers should not in any way impact the proper execution of the sub-licensing agreement.

“The Amaury group [L’Equipe’s owners] cannot hold French basketball fans hostage by putting such pressure on Fedcom Media.”

Skweek also alleged in the release that it “repeatedly” attempted to converse with 21 Production over the payment issues, but the production company never moved forward with the requests.

Despite the acknowledgment of the termination letter, Skweek remained firm in its commitment to airing the LNB Elite, stating its intention to “enforce all its rights under the sub-license agreement”, adding that it is still willing to fulfill the entirety of its broadcast commitments through the end of the current 2023-24 season, which ends on May 11.