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Champions League media-rights tender goes to second round in France

The invitation to tender process for broadcast rights in France to the Uefa Champions League, Europa League and new-third tier Europa Conference League during the three-season cycle from 2021-22 to 2023-24 has gone to a second round of bidding.

Team Marketing, Uefa’s sales agency for club competitions, had set an original bid deadline of today (Wednesday) at 10am (CET) for bids for the properties.

However, Team is now understood to have sent the process to a second round for all packages, with a bid deadline of 3pm (CET) tomorrow.

Potential buyers in France include incumbent telco Altice, pay-television broadcasters Canal Plus and beIN Sports, and new-entrant Mediapro.

Altice currently pays €350m ($385m) per season for the exclusive rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The matches are shown by the RMC Sport subscription channels, which were created by Altice (as SFR Sport), following the acquisition of the English Premier League rights.

It has been thought Canal and Altice could join forces given their recent co-operation on Uefa club competition coverage and English Premier League rights. Mediapro is preparing to launch its new pay-TV channels in France 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.

The two tenders were launched on October 14.

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.

Asked about the decision to launch an early sales process in the French market, Guy-Laurent Epstein, Uefa’s marketing director, told L’Équipe today: “We have 18 months to market the rights across all the territories. We have to establish a schedule that runs from September to June 2021 and of course we start with the markets where we anticipate good results.”

Commenting on the difficulty for free-to-air broadcasters to challenge for the rights in major European countries, he noted: “In Italy there are still matches on free-to-air on Mediaset. Legally we cannot reserve a package for this type of broadcaster [specifically].

“But for 2021-2024, we created additional packages for certain matches, such as in France, with a specific package for the final. We extracted it to be able to directly bring in the free-to-air channels, for example.”

During the last sales auction in France (in May 2017), Altice ousted beIN and Canal Plus as rights-holders in a competitive rights auction that approximately doubled the value that Team and Uefa derive from the French market.

Earlier this month, UK telco BT retained exclusive, multi-platform rights to the Uefa club competitions for the 2021-24 cycle in a deal worth £400m (€468.8m, $515.5m) per season.