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September 23, 2021

France opens public consultation on sports broadcasting in wake of Mediapro fiasco

The National Assembly of France has launched a public consultation into the regulation and consumption of sport on TV, in response to the collapse of the rights deal between Spanish media firm Mediapro and the LFP, the French professional soccer league, that plunged French soccer into a financial crisis.

By Stu Robarts

The National Assembly of France has launched a public consultation into the regulation and consumption of sport on TV, in response to the collapse of the rights deal between Spanish media firm Mediapro and the LFP, the French professional soccer league, that plunged French soccer into a financial crisis.

The aim of the consultation is to help assess possible legislative and regulatory changes for improving public access to sport, how to ensure the stability of amateur sport, how to ensure fans watch sport legally and how the economic models of male and female disciplines may be consolidated.

It is based on the premise that audiovisual broadcasting rights are fundamental to the financing of professional sport and that watching sport is central to the lives of many French people.

Questions being asked of the public cover what sports they watch, how often they watch sport on TV and at venues, what women’s sports they watch, and whether enough women’s and disabled sports are shown free-to-air.

The survey then delves into greater depth, asking whether respondents would be in favour of a “minimum public service for broadcasting sport on public channels” and of allowing advertising on public channels after 8pm to finance the broadcasting of major sporting events.

There are also questions about whether respondents have paid subscriptions for sports broadcasting, what platforms they use, how much they would be willing to pay for sporting content and whether they consume sports content illegally on the internet.

The public consultation, which began yesterday (22 September) and runs until 24 October, is part of a wider consultation by the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Education that started in June and has included hearings with individuals relevant to the Mediapro fiasco and the wider industry.

Last week, Jaume Roures, the chief executive of Mediapro, made an appearance during which he blamed the LFP for the collapse of their media rights deal, claiming the French professional soccer league was unwilling to compromise and negotiate an agreement on new terms amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mediapro signed a €3.3 billion (£3.9 billion) deal with the LFP in 2018 to show 80 per cent of matches across Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 for four years from the start of the 2020-21 season, part of which comprised €780 million a year to show the eight Ligue 1 matches per round.

However, the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020 contributed to financial difficulties at Mediapro and the company sought to renegotiate its agreement in October 2020, just two months after the start of the contract, having missed its second instalment payment of €172 million.

The company’s Téléfoot channel, which was set up to show matches from Ligues 1 and 2, had targeted 3.5 million subscribers but was significantly short of that figure.

Ultimately, a revised agreement could not be reached, and the deal was terminated in December, with Mediapro paying the LFP a divorce settlement of €100 million.

The live streaming service of global corporation Amazon was subsequently contracted to pay €250 million per year for eight Ligue 1 games per round and €9 million per year for the eight Ligue 2 matches per round, which represented a huge shortfall in income for the LFP compared to the Mediapro contract, angered other rights-holders who felt they were now overpaying and led to multiple legal battles, several of which are ongoing.

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