Spanish agency and production group Mediapro has reportedly agreed a carriage deal with social media giant Facebook for the former’s new Téléfoot channel.
The deal is likely to have been facilitated by the Eurosport connections of Facebook’s global director of live sports partnerships and programming, Peter Hutton, and Mediapro’s head of French operations, Julien Bergeaud, according to L’Équipe.
Peter Hutton was chief executive at the pan-European broadcaster from 2015 to 2018 while Bergeaud was head of Eurosport France before taking the Mediapro job last year.
Bergeaud said early this year that Mediapro was in distribution talks with the ‘GAFA’ technology giants (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) as well as traditional distributors.
Facebook has 37 million users in France. It is not clear exactly how the carriage deal would work, but the platform has a strategy of agreeing broadcast partnerships with sports rights-holders.
It has such deals with the International Cricket Council, the South American football confederation Conmebol and basketball’s NBA. They are designed to help rights-holders build value for their properties by using Facebook’s infrastructure to showcase video content.
But these partnership deals with sports brands have tended to focus more strongly on highlights and ancillary video content and not so much on live rights.
That said, OTT broadcaster DAZN’s coverage of last year’s Champions League final in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines was shown on its pages on Facebook. The platform also has a live content agreement with Fox Sports for the Copa Libertadores in some Latin American countries as part of a sublicencing deal.
But a partnership agreement with Mediapro for Téléfoot would be a significant extension of Facebook’s partnerships model into the live sport space.
Stalled linear talks
Mediapro’s carriage discussions with traditional distributors are being complicated by the latter’s reluctance to pay a minimum guarantee for the Téléfoot channel, which is expected to be officially launched in the next few days.
The agency is launching Téléfoot on the back of its €780m ($904.5m)-per-season acquisition of the bulk of Ligue 1 broadcast rights from 2020-21 to 2023-24. The new French season scheduled to start on August 22.
It is thought to be seeking non-exclusive carriage deals with minimum guarantees of €100m per season from each linear distributor. The main distribution platforms in France are pay-television operator Canal Plus and telcos Orange, Bouygues Telecom, Free and Altice’s SFR.
Negotiations with Free and Orange “have advanced little”, reports L’Équipe while those with Canal Plus said to have reached a stalemate.
Some industry players had suggested Mediapro would initially launch its channel as an OTT offering to put pressure on the distributors, particularly the big two platforms – Canal Plus and Orange. The reported agreement with Facebook could be part of this strategy.
Mediapro is also in talks with Altice, which could see the latter sublicense its Uefa club competition rights to the former in exchange for distributing the channel.
The agency is aiming to attract 3.5 million subscribers to Téléfoot. But industry observers have said its targeted €25-per-month price point is too high for the few properties it holds. In addition to Ligue 1, these include Ligue 2 (for the 2020-24 cycle) and the Europa League/Europa Conference League (for the 2021-24 cycle). It is also debatable whether Ligue 1 is attractive enough to support such a premium given the continued dominance of Paris Saint-Germain.