Free prepares ground for near-live Ligue 1 coverage

French telecoms operator Free is developing an app to showcase its near-live rights to French football’s Ligue 1 from the 2020-21 season onwards.

The app has been given the working name of “Free Ligue 1”, reports L’Équipe, and will be free to existing subscribers of the Iliad-owned operator and also targeted at customers of other telecoms groups in France.

The app will be in addition to an offer developed for Freebox TV, the IPTV service, and will bring together Free’s complete football offering.

During the 2018 rights auction, Free went under the radar to pick up a package of near-live rights to all 10 matches each week, plus a video-on-demand magazine programme.

The rights were acquired from 2020-21 to 2023-24 for under €50m ($54.6m) per season, Iliad said.

The acquisition of the rights was thought to be, in part, a defensive move in the case of rival SFR picking up the majority of the Ligue 1 rights. The Altice-owned operator has, however, since altered its strategy in a move away from premium sports rights acquisition.

Free is expected to roll out an advertising campaign around its coverage in the coming months as it promotes an app that will send fans goal and highlights alerts from his or her favourite club. Each clip is restricted to 60 seconds in length and Free is able to use up to a total of 30 minutes of footage per match. The VOD magazine is limited to three minutes of highlights footage per match.

Production houses – including the production company run by French television journalist Thomas Thouroude – are reported to have been contacted about the magazine programme.

It is claimed that Free is looking to introduce “selfie” interview formats by filming post-match interviews on mobile phones. Along with live right-holders Mediapro and Canal Plus, Free will also have the right to carry out interviews as players and coaches leave the pitch.

Free has close to 20 million subscribers in France, including 6.4 million subscribers to its high-speed and fibre-optic broadband services and 13.4 million mobile subscribers.