Altice bids to recoup slice of Uefa club competitions TV rights outlay

Telecoms group Altice has launched a bid to claim back a portion of its annual €350m ($385m) investment in Uefa Champions League and Europa League broadcast rights in France.

Speaking to analysts upon the presentation of Altice’s first-quarter earnings, Patrick Drahi, founder of Altice Europe, warned that Altice is “not going to pay for something we’re not getting” and that he expects “some money back very quickly” from Uefa, football’s European governing body.

Altice, which operates the RMC Sport subscription channels in France, has already paid its full instalment for the rights during the 2019-20 season but action from the European club competitions has been postponed for over two months because of the Covid-19 shutdown.

Drahi remarked: “On the Champions League [and Europa League], a season costs approximately €350m and we pay in advance. So we already paid €175m in July last year for the first part of the season and we paid in January another €175m for the second part of the season.

“The problem is I didn’t see anyone playing since mid-March.

“We don’t expect to spend all this money even if it’s contractually due because we have a claim.”

Specific details of the claim remain confidential, Drahi said.

Uefa’s executive committee is to discuss the possible resumption of the 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League campaigns at its rescheduled June 17 meeting.

RMC Sport holds the exclusive French rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21 but did not secure any rights for the 2021-24 cycle as Altice takes a step back from the French sports broadcast sector.

It recently emerged that RMC Sport had not paid the second half of its annual €10m 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.

Altice this week outlined a “rapid and wide-ranging review” of its pay-television operation in France as a savings plan is enacted at RMC Sport, including a wave of voluntary redundancies. The decision to close the RMC Sport News channel at the start of next month is part of this strategic shift.

Laurent Eichinger, the chief executive of RMC Sport, also left his position at the start of 2020.

Altice burst onto the scene in France in 2015 with deals for English Premier League football, English rugby union’s Premiership and France’s top two basketball divisions. An agreement with the French Athletics Federation expires at the end of 2020 and is not expected to be renewed. The agreement is worth €1m per year in rights fees and production costs, according to L’Équipe.