Canal Plus bids to take league cup off free-to-air

Coverage of the Coupe de la Ligue, France’s football league cup, could move off free-to-air television after pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus offered about €15 million ($19 million) per year for domestic rights from 2012-13 to 2015-16, according to l’Equipe.

The newspaper said that Canal Plus became a serious candidate for the rights, which are currently held by public-service broadcaster France Télévisions, after losing the main package of pay-television Uefa Champions League rights, from 2012-13 to 2014-15, to Qatari pay-television broadcaster Al Jazeera.

France Télévisions, traditionally the only bidder for the rights, submitted an offer of at least €10.5 million per year – the amount they currently pay for the exclusive rights from 2009-10 to 2011-12. France Télévisions’ ability to guarantee the competition greater exposure than Canal Plus on its free-to-air channels is expected to count in its favour in the sales process.

Final bids for the rights were due yesterday, and the Ligue de Football Professionnel, the French football league, is expected to award the rights on Monday.

“We have filed an attractive offer to the football administrators,” France Télévisions’ director of sports Daniel Bilalian said. “We shall see. The Champions League has already gone [from free-to-air television]. I hope the public will continue to see the League Cup without having to pay.”

Al Jazeera, which acquired rights for French Ligue 1 football from 2012-13 to 2015-16 last June before out-bidding Canal Plus for the Champions League rights, is challenging Canal Plus’s dominance of the French pay-television sports sector.

Al Jazeera’s director of French operations, Charles Bietry, confirmed the broadcaster had not made a bid for league cup rights, but said it would be “nice if it stays [on free-to-air television]”.