Altice: Close to 2m subscribers for RMC Sport channels

French telecoms group Altice has revealed that the subscription total for its RMC Sport channels is “close to” two million as it heads into its second season of Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League coverage.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the European competitions’ group stages, Alain Weill, president of Altice France, remarked: “We want to continue to attract an increasingly large audience, [but] you need a bit of time for people to change their habits.”

RMC Sport recently increased its monthly subscription rate to €25 ($27.40) per month, up from €19 previously, for viewers who are not broadband customers of the Altice-owned SFR. The subscription rate for SFR subscribers remains unchanged at €9 per month.

Weill made the claim of having two million subscribers in November last year, but at the time did not offer any further explanation. It was thought that those comments could be a reference to Canal Plus’ two million satellite subscribers who were able to sign up to the RMC Sport channels after a carriage deal was struck.

The Altice France president also said 12 months ago that it aimed to have one million subscribers to RMC Sport in 2019 and identified a “long-term” target of three million. At the time, he forecast a profit for RMC Sport in three-to-four years’ time.

Altice is paying €350m per season for the Champions League and Europa League rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21, having ousted previous rights-holders beIN Sports and Canal Plus in a competitive rights auction in May 2017.

Discussing the next bidding process for rights in France, Laurent Eichinger, the head of RMC Sport, said that there “is no urgency to launch this invitation to tender, we will see what happens and above all, we are concentrating in a successful second season”. The ITT process is expected to be launched by the Team Marketing agency before the end of the year.

RMC Sport’s over-the-top service was launched ahead of the group stages of last season’s Champions League and technical problems marred the initial coverage. The Altice, RMC Sport and SFR top brass were keen to stress at yesterday’s press conference that those glitches have been overcome.

Looking back at last year, SFR executive director Grégory Rabuel noted: “It’s a new technology, when you have 150,000 subscribers during the day and more at the time of connecting at 9pm to watch the game, we could suffer inconveniences.”

On the topic of any potential carriage of the RMC Sport channels over and above the existing distribution (SFR set-top boxes, the OTT service and Canal Plus), Rabuel said: “We paid for the rights at a certain value and have no strategic interest in selling them off.” Carriage talks have been held with the likes of telecoms trio Orange, Free and Bouyges.

RMC Sport offers four linear channels and 12 additional channels to facilitate coverage of multiple football games at once. Its rights portfolio also includes the English Premier League, basketball’s EuroLeague and EuroCup and athletics’ Diamond League.