Europa League returns to M6 as French sales process complete

Live action from the Uefa Europa League is to return to the schedules of M6 after the French free-to-air commercial broadcaster acquired a package of rights from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

Having been displaced as the rights-holder by telecoms operator Altice from 2018-19 onwards in the 2017 rights auction, M6 has secured a package of free-to-air rights for 16 matches per season during the new cycle.

The agreement rounds off the Team Marketing agency’s sale of European club competition rights in France.

M6 will be able to broadcast the first-pick match from the Europa League or new third-tier Europa Conference League, along with the final of both competitions. The rights are exclusive on a free-to-air basis, with Canal Plus having already picked up the pay-TV rights to the top-pick match (and the finals).

Mediapro, the agency and production group, has been awarded the rights to a total of 266 matches per season from the Europa League and Europa Conference League (excluding those awarded to Canal Plus and M6).

M6 is expected to air the majority of fixtures on W9, its free-to-air digital terrestrial channel, with matches in the closing stages showcased on the main M6 channel. The 2018 Europa League final between Marseille and Atlético Madrid – the last match from the competition to be shown by M6 – was watched by an average audience of 6.7 million viewers (and a 26.8-per-cent share).

Altice currently pays €350m ($383.1m) per season for the exclusive rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21 to both the Champions League and Europa League. Matches are showcased by Altice on its RMC Sport subscription channels although the telecoms group also offers 15 Europa League matches per season on its free-to-air channels.

M6 first acquired rights to the Uefa Cup, the forerunner to the Europa League, in 2004 as it struck a deal with Team for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 finals. At the time, Uefa and Team only sold rights to the final as the rights to earlier rounds were sold individually by the home team.

The French commercial broadcaster then picked up the free-to-air rights to the Uefa Cup from 2006-07 to 2008-09 as rights were centralised from the quarter-final onwards.

M6 then secured rights in the following cycle (2009-10 to 2011-12) with rights fully centralised from the group stage onwards and the competition reborn as the Europa League. Subsequent free-to-air rights deals were struck by M6 for the next two cycles (2012-15 and 2015-18) before Altice secured exclusivity (from 2018-21).

Nicolas de Tavernost, the M6 president, said that the return of the rights “reinforces the group’s position in the sports rights market and illustrates our ambitions to make sport an ever stronger element in our channels’ editorial offering”.

Mediapro’s move for the Europa League and Europa Conference League rights came after it missed out on the contract for the top-tier Champions League from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

Mediapro lost out to Canal Plus and subscription broadcaster beIN Sports (plus commercial free-to-air broadcaster TF1) as a total of €375m per season was generated.

The Champions League/Uefa Super Cup and Europa League/Europa Conference were offered by Team in concurrent joint tenders as the agency opted to go to market early in France given the heightened competition.