Jaume Roures, the chief executive of Mediapro, has sought to allay any fears over the production and agency group’s timeline to launch its new service in France and schedule of rights fee payments.
Following reports in the French press this month about the general lack of information coming from Mediapro over its plans to showcase Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 rights from 2020-21 onwards, Roures has now opted to issue an update on the progress.
Mediapro is launching subscription channels in France on the back of its €780m ($857m) 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 after Mediapro and pay-TV broadcaster beIN Sports emerged victories in an auction process that delivered €64m per season in rights fees.
In the wake of claims that Mediapro had missed a deadline to provide the French Professional League (LFP) with updates, including an organisational chart for the new service, Roures told Le Parisien: “The basis for this assertion is false. I don’t have a calendar of dates when I should do this or that thing.
“Our contract with the LFP is a payment contract, which I must execute from next year.” The first payment must be made in July 2020.
Roures, who said that he struggled to understand the “commotion” in France over Mediapro’s plans, said: “When it’s time to pay, we will pay. We don’t default on any contract…ask the LFP if we default on anything. They will tell you no.”
Recent discussions among Ligue 1 presidents over Mediapro’s guarantee payments and schedule to set up its service in France were “animated” according to L’Équipe.
Asked if Mediapro is on schedule to launch in France, Roures replied: “Of course. We are not irresponsible…
“…we have ten months ahead of us before Ligue 1 starts. We have no other commitments to meet other than this one. We have the experience within Mediapro to set up a channel in three months and hire people next year. We have time.”
Mediapro will “begin to build the channel” in January “as it always said it will”, Roures added.
He continued: “There is no point in having a channel now. What am I going to do with it when we don’t have rights? Why pay rent and staff now?”
Julien Bergeaud, the long-serving Discovery/Eurosport executive, was named as the leader of Mediapro France in August but is not thought to have joined up yet as he serves out his notice period. Roures said that others have been recruited but that they cannot be announced yet given they are under contract elsewhere.
Distribution agreements for the Mediapro service are still to be negotiated ahead of the 2020-21 Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons.
Roures underlined that it remained the company’s policy to make football available to the greatest number of people possible and at the lowest price possible. Therefore, it is looking to secure various distribution agreements as opposed to an exclusive deal with one pay-TV platform.
Champions League rights “important but not decisive”
The mooted subscription price of €25 per month is “pretty much” still the planned price point, according to Roures, but it will depend on whether rights to the Uefa Champions League and Europa League are added.
He specified: “The contract that ties us to the Ligue does not allow me to talk about the price and marketing until March in order to avoid disturbing the current broadcasters…
“…If we have the Champions League then it’s a larger offering and more ambitious and logically more expensive.”
The invitation to tender for Champions League, Europa League and the new Europa Conference League was issued in France on October 14 and first-round bids must be lodged on November 27. The rights on offer cover the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle.
Mediapro is interested in the addition of the rights, Roures said, because they “form part of our project to be the channel of French football.” However, the acquisition would not be decisive to the setting up of the new service, he claimed.
Roures noted: “What was decisive was to have Ligue 1 and Ligue 2. The Champions League is important in this type of offering but it not decisive. Otherwise, we would have waited for this tender in order to launch.”
Exclusive rights to both European competitions are currently held in France by Altice, the telecoms group, in a deal worth €350m per season. The matches are shown by the RMC Sport subscription channels, which were created by Altice (as SFR Sport) following the acquisition of the English Premier League rights.