LFP and Canal Plus reach agreement over coverage dispute

The French Football League (LFP) has reached an agreement with its rights-holder, pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus, over its coverage of the top two divisions of the domestic game.

The two parties have been at odds in recent months over the programming plans of Canal Plus for its coverage of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2. In September, it emerged that Canal Plus had rejected a request from the LFP to pay a compensation fee that would allow it to alter its coverage of Ligue 1.

Canal Plus had earlier failed in its effort to revise the programming schedule for Ligue 1. The broadcaster had put forward an approach that would have resulted in a change to the Sunday night schedule, as well as the broadcast of two of its three main matches on the Canal Plus Sport channel.

Canal Plus had sought to change the kick-off time for the top match on Sunday night from 8:45pm to 9pm, but the LFP elected to stick to the terms of the rights contract. However, the two parties have now concluded an agreement that will commence from January 14, tying in with the second half of the 2016-17 season.

Sunday evening’s top Ligue 1 match will now be played at 9pm on Canal Plus, while Monday evening’s Ligue 2 game will kick-off at 8:45pm on Canal Plus Sport. The LFP also gave its approval for the Ligue 1 games scheduled for Friday at 8:45pm and Saturday at 5pm to be broadcast on Canal Plus Sport. The league also added that Canal Plus is set to implement 4K production of matches on Sunday.

In a statement, the LFP described the new agreement as a “win-win” adding that it will provide an additional financial contribution to the league over Canal Plus’ four-season rights deal running from 2016-17 to 2019-20.

The 2016-17 season is the first of a new four-year rights window, under which Canal Plus will pay €540m ($579m) per season for its content. In April 2014, Canal Plus acquired rights in France for the two main packages of the next cycle of domestic rights for Ligue 1, while rival pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports acquired the other four packages. The agreements will run for four seasons, from 2016-17 to 2019-20.

Canal Plus acquired packages one and two in the tender. Package one includes 28 first-choice matches, 10 second-choice matches and 38 third-choice matches per season plus a Saturday and Sunday evening highlights programme. Package two includes 28 matches and a Sunday evening magazine programme.

In other news from the LFP board of directors meeting held yesterday (Tuesday), league president Nathalie Boy de la Tour said the controversial comments of French President François Hollande were not addressed and will instead be discussed at a future gathering.

Frédéric Thiriez, the former president of the LFP, last month claimed that Hollande’s intervention in the tender for the current cycle of domestic media rights represented a “serious breach of competition law.”

Hollande revealed in a new book, ‘A President Should Not Say That: Secrets of Five Years in Office,’ that he suggested to the Emir of Qatar that beIN Sports – which had been aggressive in bidding for sports rights since entering the French market in 2012 – should not adopt the same approach in the auction for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 rights from 2016-17 to 2019-20.

To the surprise of many observers, and the disappointment of several clubs, the league only secured a 20-per-cent increase in the total rights fee by awarding Canal Plus the bulk of the packages.