Altice begins retreat from French sports-rights market

French telco Altice has announced plans to gradually exit the pay-television sports rights market as part of a raft of measures designed to protect its audio-visual business.

“The unpredictable and inflationary rights and pay-TV market requires a rapid and wide-ranging review of the organization of our pay-TV structures,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The retreat will begin with Altice’s rights in athletics, horse riding and tennis. Consequently, the telco’s rights to the Diamond League Paris athletics meeting, which began in 2017 and expire this year, will now not be renewed.

Altice’s decision to close its RMC Sport News channel at the start of next month is part of this strategic shift, which will also see it make a wave of voluntary redundancies in its media division. These job losses will be made mandatory if there is insufficient take-up of the voluntary option.

Industry experts had predicted Altice’s exit from the sports-rights market after it failed to renew its rights to the Uefa club competitions for the 2021-24 cycle. Laurent Eichinger, the chief executive of RMC Sport, left his position at the start of this year.

The telco will only be able to show Uefa club competitions for one more season. However, it has rights to the English Premier League until the end of 2021-22 as part of a content-sharing deal with pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus.

It recently emerged that RMC Sport had not paid the second half of its annual €10m ($10.9m) fee for rights to club basketball competitions organised by the Ligue Nationale de Basket amidst the Covid-19 shutdown. RMC Sport holds the exclusive rights to French basketball, with television rights said to account for 57 per cent of the LNB’s budget for 2019-20.