Canal Plus, beIN and TF1 win back Champions League in record deal

Broadcast rights in France to the Uefa Champions League will return to pay-TV broadcasters Canal Plus and beIN Sports during the 2021-24 cycle after the duo emerged victorious in the rights auction.

Canal Plus has acquired exclusive rights to the first-choice matches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and beIN has secured exclusive live rights to 104 Champions League matches per season.

Free-to-air broadcaster TF1 has picked up rights to the final and the total derived from the French market for rights to European football’s elite clubs competition from 2021-22 to 2023-24 is a record sum of €375m per season, according to L’Equipe. TF1 last broadcast the Champions League final in 2015 and was previously a long-standing rights-holder to the competition.

The process went to two rounds of bidding with the second-round deadline falling at 3pm (CET) yesterday (Thursday).

Altice, the telecoms operator, currently pays €350m per season for the exclusive rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21 to the Champions League and Europa League. The loss of rights will raise serious questions over the future of Altice’s RMC Sport subscription channels and the telecoms operator’s appetite for premium sports rights, following on from the Premier League rights sharing accord with Canal Plus.

Canal Plus and beIN were dislodged as the rights-holders to the Champions League during the last sales process in May 2017 as Altice secured the rights.

Announcing its acquisition of rights, beIN said that it had succeeded with a “disciplined and measured financial offer”. Along with exclusive live rights to 104 of 134 Champions League games per season, beIN will offer rebroadcasts of matches, plus Tuesday and Wednesday highlights programmes.

Yousef Al-Obaidly, president of beIN Sports France, described the acquisition as “an important statement to the crowded broadcast market”. He also underlined that, “from a business point of view, we are determined to make economically sensible and proportionate bids in the interests of our long term financial security and our subscribers”.

The coverage from beIN will include live coverage of a French team each match week, should at least three Ligue 1 sides qualify for the group stages.

Team Marketing, Uefa’s sales agency for club competitions, had set a first-round bid deadline of Wednesday at 10am (CET) for bids for the Champions League, Europa League and new third-tier Europa Conference League. The uplift in the French market, coupled with the return of Champions League final coverage on a major free-to-air channel, will be viewed as a particular success by the agency.

Team opted to go to market early in France given the heightened competition, and with new-entrant Mediapro, the Spanish agency and production group, preparing to launch its new pay-TV channels on the back of its swoop for the French Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 rights.

The Champions League/Uefa Super Cup and Europa League/Europa Conference were offered in separate joint tenders.

Broadcasters in France must ensure live free-to-air coverage of the Champions League final given the country’s listed events legislation. Altice aired simultaneous live coverage of the 2018-19 Champions League final on both RMC Sport and the free-to-air BFM TV. However, Altice became embroiled in a row with French broadcast regulator CSA over the selection of the news-focused BFM TV channel to show the final.