RTBF to renegotiate major contracts, warns of ‘huge’ work on calendar

Michel Lecomte, head of sport at RTBF, has said that the Belgian public broadcaster will have to renegotiate contracts it holds to major football competitions due to the impact caused by the Covid-19 virus on the sports calendar.

Speaking in the wake of Uefa’s move to postpone the European Championship by 12 months, Lecomte weighed up the knock-on effect on other properties that sit in the RTBF portfolio.

He noted: “For 2021 we had already acquired the broadcast rights to the women’s European Championship as well as the [Fifa] Club World Cup.

“We have just learned that the women’s Euro will be postponed for a year. That’s a relief. However we are going to have to re-discuss all of these rights.”

Quoted on the RTBF website, Lecomte warned: “Each contract – and clearly the one concerning the Euro 2020 rights – will have to be analysed by our lawyers in the coming weeks and will be renegotiated.”

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has already proposed a rescheduling of the 24-team Club World Cup, which was scheduled to be hosted in China in June and July next year.

Lecomte continued: “When you buy rights, you do it according to context and a given period of time…there is still a lot of uncertainty. For example, what about the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup that were due to take place in 2021 and for which we have the rights?

“There’s still a huge amount of work to be done in terms of the calendar. The big events bear a lot of weight when it comes to audiences. We’re going to have to find solutions.”

RTBF also holds rights to tennis’ French Open, which has been postponed, along with the Tour de France and the 2020 Olympic Games, both of which are under serious threat.

Lecomte added: “All of these events take up a lot of space in terms of occupying programming…solutions will therefore have to be found in the event of a cancellation or postponement. Our teams scheduled to cover the competitions will also have to be remobilised. This is a time for creativity.”

Like most broadcasters hit by the decimation of the sports calendar, RTBF has switched its short-term focus to airing archive sports content.

Lecomte said: “We are working on our archives at the moment. We want to continue to maintain a connection with our audience.”