Altice suspends TV rights payments to Portuguese clubs

Altice, the telecoms operator, has warned that it is suspending its rights fee payments to clubs from Portuguese football’s top two divisions amidst the ongoing postponement of professional football in the country.

Alexandre Fonseca, president of Altice Portugal, told RTL’s Antena 1 radio station today (Tuesday): “In April, and having no compensation, it makes no sense to be paying for a service that is not available.

“We will return to making these payments as soon as the content is made available to our clients.”

Rights fee payments were settled for March, Fonseca said.

Broadcast rights deals are negotiated on a club-by-club basis in Portugal and not sold centrally by the LPFP, the professional league body.

In 2015, Altice battled with rival telecoms operators for rights to Portuguese football. Its 10-year €457.5m ($496m) deal with Porto was the most high profile of its individual deals. That agreement granted it media rights to Porto home matches (from 2018-19 to 2027-28) plus shirt sponsorship and in-stadium sponsorship rights and the distribution of the Porto club channel.

However, there was contraction in the Portuguese market in July 2016 when Altice and fellow telco Vodafone each acquired 25-per-cent stakes in pay-television broadcaster Sport TV from Nos and Global Media Group – both owned by Portuguese businessman Joaquim Oliveira.

Sport TV now broadcasts the home matches of 17 of the 18 top-tier Primeira Liga teams. Benfica is the only team not to hold a deal with Sport TV and its home matches are broadcast instead on the club-owned Benfica TV channel.

At the start of April, Altice said that it had maintained its rights fee payments but “regretted” that it was not notified in advance of plans to suspend the Portuguese leagues.

The Primeira Liga and second-tier Liga Pro both remain suspended with 24 of 34 match weeks having been completed. Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said today that the country’s lockdown measures would be gradually lifted from May 3, raising hopes of a return to action.

Fonseca also said that Altice, which owns the MEO pay-television and telecoms operator, is willing to negotiate proposals that “make sense” for the free-to-air broadcast of matches when they resume (either behind closed doors or with reduced crowds).

Last month, Sport TV responded to the nation’s coronavirus precautions by announcing that it would broadcast matchdays 25 and 26 on its free-to-air Sport TV+ channel as matches were played behind closed doors.

The matches were to be available to all subscribers with a basic-tier package on Portuguese operators such as MEO, NOS and Vodafone. Sport TV+ is available in over 92 per cent of Portuguese homes.