Canal Plus ends TV rights deal as curtain falls on French season

Canal Plus, the French pay-television broadcaster, has informed France’s Professional Football League (LFP) that it is terminating its media-rights agreement following the decision to end the 2019-20 Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons.

The Vivendi-owned broadcaster has acted swiftly after French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe told the French parliament on Tuesday that the current seasons of professional sports, including football, would not be able to resume because of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Canal Plus informed the LFP this morning, reports L’Équipe, and will not be making any more rights fee payments.

Canal Plus and fellow domestic rights-holder beIN Sports, the pay-television broadcaster, last week agreed to pay reduced sums for the French league matches already played, but were awaiting clarity over the structure and timing of the rest of the season before making any further payments.

Canal Plus paid around €37m ($40.4m) as part of its settlement but, it is claimed, insisted on a clause that it would make no additional payment if the 2019-20 season did not resume. The pay-television broadcaster has now also informed the LFP of its desire for the 2020-21 season to begin as early as possible.

The LFP today announced the end of the 2019-20 Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons, issuing the final league tables and crowning Paris Saint-Germain as the champions of the top flight.

Clubs from Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 now face a dramatic shortfall in media-rights revenues for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Outstanding domestic rights fees from Canal Plus and beIN between now and the end of the season total a combined €243m.

The two broadcasters had warned the LFP in March that they would not be making their latest rights fee instalments due on April 5. These amounted to €110m and €42m, respectively.

The Qatar-backed beIN was faced with a €15m rights fee payment for matches already played and is thought to have last week agreed to pay a reduced sum of €10.6m.

The LFP’s deals with Canal Plus and beIN Sports for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 are worth a combined €748.5m on average per season from 2016-17 to 2019-20. The Ligue 1 rights represent €726.5m, or 97 per cent, of that sum, with the broadcasters’ Ligue 2 rights deals worth a total of €22m per season.

The international rights to Ligue 1 are also held by beIN in a in six-year deal from 2018-19 to 2023-24 worth an average of €80m per season. It is reported that a €35m sum for the international rights remains to be paid for the 2019-20 season.