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Altice’s BFM TV suffers blow in Champions League final court ruling

The Conseil d’État, the highest administrative court in France, has ruled that free-to-air news channel BFM TV, which is owned by telco Altice, was not authorised to broadcast last season’s Uefa Champions League final.

The Conseil d’État said in its decision, published on Tuesday, that the broadcast of the final on June 1, contested between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, breached the provisions of an agreement between the CSA, the French broadcast regulator, and BFM TV signed in 2005. That agreement stipulated that the channel is “devoted to news”.

Altice, which holds the Champions League broadcast rights in France from 2018-19 to 2020-21, announced in March its intention to simultaneously show the final on BFM TV and the telco’s pay-television channel RMC Sport.

Broadcasters in France must ensure live free-to-air coverage of the Champions League final given the country’s listed events legislation.

CSA responded in April by warning Altice such a move would be incompatible with the 2005 agreement. After the broadcast of the final, the regulator sent BFM TV a formal notice that it had breached the agreement. BFM TV had asked for the CSA notices to be withdrawn but that request has now been rejected in the Conseil d’État ruling.

BFM TV attracted an average audience of 2.5 million viewers (and a 14.3-per-cent viewing share) for its live coverage of the 2019 final. The audience peaked at 3.1 million.

Altice will now have to decide how it will meet its free-to-air obligation for the 2020 and 2021 Champions League finals. Commercial broadcaster TF1 holds the free-to-air rights to the final from 2021-22 to 2023-24 following the conclusion in November of the latest tender process. TF1 last broadcast the Champions League final in 2015.

Canal Plus will hold the pay-television rights to the final from 2022 to 2024. It will also hold exclusive rights to the first-choice matches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the rest of the competition. Pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports secured exclusive live rights to 104 Champions League matches per season.

Uefa’s sales agency for club competitions, Team Marketing, achieved  a record €375m ($420m) per season for the Champions League rights in France for the three seasons from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

Mediapro, the agency and production group, recently revealed that it was in talks with Altice about acquiring the remainder of its Champions League rights contract. Mediapro, which has secured Europa League rights in France for the 2021-24 cycle, said last month that it is “not the only one” to be in negotiations with Altice.