Team goes early in France with Champions League rights for 2021-2024 cycle

Broadcast rights in France to the Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League will hit the market next month as the Team Marketing agency begins the sales process for the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle.

The invitation to submit offers will be issued by the Luzern-based agency on October 14 and with interested broadcasters handed a first-round bid deadline of November 18, according to L’Équipe.

Exclusive rights to both European competitions are currently held in France by Altice, the telecoms group, in a deal worth €350m ($384.3m) 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.

Team is also set to offer rights to the “Europa League 2”, the working name for the new third-tier European competition that will be introduced in 2020-21. Final details about the competition are expected to be announced following Uefa’s executive committee meeting next week.

In launching its sales process early in France, Team will be looking to maximise heightened competition in the market given the arrival of Mediapro, the rights agency and production group that has secured Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 rights from 2020-21 onwards.

Along with RMC Sport and Mediapro, competition is likely to come from beIN Sports and Canal Plus, the pay-TV broadcasters and previous Champions League rights-holders ousted by Altice in a competitive rights auction in May 2017 as Team approximately doubled the value it derives from the French market.

Canal Plus is in particular need of premium football content after losing out to Mediapro (and beIN) in the Ligue 1 rights auction and with its long-standing coverage of the French top flight coming to an end. Mediapro is preparing to launch its new pay-TV channels in France on the back of its swoop for the French league rights, and will doubtless be looking for additional premium content.

The rights packages available in the Champions League rights tender have been split up into four packages, according to L’Équipe: the first-choice Tuesday match, the first-choice Wednesday match, all other matches, and the final.

Broadcasters in France must ensure live free-to-air coverage of the Champions League final given the country’s listed events legislation. Altice aired simultaneous live coverage of the 2018-19 Champions League final on both RMC Sport and the free-to-air BFM TV. However, Altice became embroiled in a row with French broadcast regulator CSA over the selection of the news-focused BFM TV channel to show the final.

Asked about the possibility of the rights coming to market soon, Laurent Eichinger, the head of RMC Sport, said earlier this month: “There is no urgency to launch this invitation to tender, we will see what happens and above all, we are concentrating in a successful second season”.

Team is heading into the new cycle with, most likely, the additional inventory of the third-tier European competition.

Going into the international sales process for the current cycle, however, the agency was equipped with the introduction of an earlier kick-off slot for Champions League group-stage games. In changes to the access list, the top four teams from England, Germany, Italy and Spain were also guaranteed direct qualification to the group stages, a key factor in helping Team derive more value from Europe’s major broadcast markets.