The French women’s handball league begins today (Wednesday) without a production or domestic broadcast rights agreement in place for regular-season games after pay-TV broadcaster beIN Sports opted against extending its contract.
BeIN first picked up the rights in 2012 as it launched its new channels in France and committed to showing 15 games per season.
However, the broadcaster has not renewed the agreement with the women’s handball league (LFH), which today cited beIN’s preference to “redirect its investment” towards its coverage of all 182 games from the men’s top-tier handball league.
The LFH said today that it was only “definitively informed” of beIN’s decision at the start of the summer. A “specialist consultant” was hired by the league and its clubs to “examine all options” in securing national exposure for the competition, but no national broadcaster put itself forward, according to the league.
Nodjialem Myaro, the LFH president, said: “I am of course very disappointed by the reluctance of the national media to support our women’s professional league. Despite these circumstances, I remain determined and will continue to do everything possible to gain exposure for our league and our clubs, thanks to our common virtues and the values of commitment that characterise us.”
BeIN holds rights to all games from the men’s Starligue until the end of the 2022-23 season after agreeing a new four-season deal worth around €4m ($4.4m) per year.
Arnaud Ponroy, the president of top-flight women’s side Nantes, told the Sportbusiness Club portal: “Today, television is costing us because the channels ask us to take charge of the production.”
The lack of appetite from French broadcasters has been, to some extent, offset by the arrival of Butagaz, the French energy firm, as the competition’s first title sponsor. That agreement was brokered by the Infront agency and announced at the end of the 2018-19 season.
BeIN will still cover the games of Brest and Metz in the women’s EHF Champions League.
BeIN also retains a strong commitment to showing the French women’s national team through its deal with the French Handball Federation (FFHB) and through the acquisition of rights (from Lagardère Sports) to the IHF World Championships.
Meanwhile, L’Equipe, the free-to-air digital terrestrial channel, holds rights to the men’s and women’s handball cups in France in a deal running from 2017-18 to 2019-20.