French pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus has reached an agreement over outstanding broadcast rights payments with Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), organiser of French rugby union’s Top 14 and Pro D2 divisions.
The news was announced following the LNR executive committee’s ratification today (Tuesday) of the decision to end the 2019-20 Top 14 and Pro D2 seasons in the wake of the suspension caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A joint press release from the LNR and Canal Plus said that a “partnership agreement” has been negotiated for the broadcaster to pay a “definitive fixed sum”.
Under the terms of the deal, Canal Plus will settle its remaining rights payment for the 2019-20 season but will receive financial compensation in future seasons, according to AFP.
This is in line with previous reports that Canal Plus was in talks to release its outstanding €14.6m instalment in order to ease clubs’ cash flow concerns and then claw back the payment over the over the remainder of its contract.
Canal Plus’s deal with the LNR runs from 2019-20 to 2022-23 and is worth €97m per season.
The two parties said today that the agreement “allows French professional rugby to neutralise this season the consequences of the health crisis on the TV rights paid by the Canal Plus group and allows the latter to improve the terms of its historic partnership with the LNR over the duration of its agreements”.
It has been reported that the share of media rights and sponsorship in Top 14 clubs’ revenue mix is just under 25 per cent, which leaves the league less exposed than football to a loss of future broadcasting income.
Canal Plus had shown 60 per cent of matches before the league was suspended. It had paid 85 per cent of the annual fee (€82.5m), suggesting that, in theory, it could have pushed for a reimbursement of around €24.3m from the LNR.
However, the broadcaster did not pursue that action in the interests of maintaining solidarity with a long-standing partner. It has broadcast Top 14 since 1995 and also holds the competition’s international rights from 2019-20 to 2024-25, which includes the second-tier Pro D2 international rights from 2020-21.