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Mediapro’s French channel named ‘Téléfoot’ in four-year TF1 deal

Production and agency group Mediapro’s football-focused pay-television service in France will be known as ‘Téléfoot’ as part of a deal struck with free-to-air commercial broadcaster TF1.

A ‘renewable’ four-year agreement with TF1 has been announced that includes the licensing of the Téléfoot name and brand to Mediapro as it looks to leverage the popularity of the Téléfoot football magazine programme launched by TF1 in 1977.

The agreement also includes editorial and production components and the use of TF1 presenter Grégoire Margotton and commentator Bixente Lizarazu for 20 matches per season aired by Mediapro’s new channel.

Mediapro is launching a subscription channel (or channels) in France on the back of its €780m- ($872m-) per-season contract for eight Ligue 1 rights packages from 2020-21 to 2023-24. Rights to Ligue 2 have also been secured over the same period, along with Uefa Europa League and Europa Conference League rights from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

The new Téléfoot service will show eight live Ligue 1 fixtures and eight live Ligue 2 fixtures per match week.

Under the tie-up with TF1, the commercial broadcaster will produce the one-hour Sunday Téléfoot magazine programme that will include highlights of the matches played on Friday and Saturday.

The programme will air at midday (CET), while the Téléfoot programme on TF1 will retain its 11am slot. The free-to-air version of the programme will not offer footage of matches.

A new programme entitled ‘Téléfoot Vintage’ will also be created to look back at classic matches from French football.

Speaking during a videoconference with journalists this morning, Mediapro founder Jaume Roures said that the content partnership could be widened, but ruled out any live Ligue 1 matches being shown by TF1.

He said: “It is a partnership that we can extend given the work that TF1 does on the French [national football] team and the one we do, for example, on European competitions.”

The accord between Mediapro and TF1 could also lead to a rights buying alliance between the pair. Roures remarked: “It’s on the agenda. Today, there are no rights on the table that you can buy. But for rights like the [Uefa] European Championships and the [Fifa] World Cups, we can make use of the complementarity between us and TF1.”

A target of 3.5 million subscribers has been set for a service that is expected to cost around €25 per month.

A specific launch date is still to be fixed given the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 crisis. Mediapro has targeted the end of August to tie in with the curtain-raising Trophée des Champions match. Roures noted: “We must first know if the Trophée des Champions is scheduled before the start of Ligue 1. This will be our first match. We don’t know the timetable yet, but the channel will be presented in August.”

Details on distribution plans are to be communicated in a week, Roures said today. A distribution agreement with pay-television operator Canal Plus does also “not make sense”, according to Roures, given the distribution tie-up in place between the Vivendi-owned broadcaster and pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports.

Despite missing out in the tender for rights from next season, Canal Plus will continue to broadcast live Ligue 1 matches after signing a exclusive distribution and sublicensing agreement with beIN Sports.

Speaking four months ago at an event organised by News Tank, Julien Bergeaud, the head of Mediapro France, remarked: “We will be distributed via all the distributors who wish to do so and we will also address all the new [distribution] means, all devices and all the means of broadcast by OTT.”

The tie-up with Mediapro is similar in nature to a deal signed by TF1 in late 2018 with Mediawan Thematics, the French pay-television group, to licence the brand of its ‘Automoto’ motorsport programme. That deal allowed Mediawan Thematics to rebrand its AB Moteurs channel as Automoto La Chaîne.

In 2007, TF1 lost the Ligue 1 highlights rights showcased on its Téléfoot programme as public broadcaster France Télévisions acquired the rights for the 2007-08 season, prompting TF1 to refocus Téléfoot on European football leagues and international football instead. The highlights then moved behind a paywall at the start of the 2008-09 season as they were showcased by rights-holder Canal Plus.