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TF1 lands rights to Lyon-Bayern Champions League semi-final

French commercial broadcaster TF1 has added free-to-air rights to Lyon’s Uefa Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich to its already acquired rights to the final in a new sublicensing agreement with the Altice-owned pay-television broadcaster RMC Sport.

Tomorrow’s (Wednesday’s) clash in Lisbon will be broadcast by both TF1 and RMC Sport as Altice continues to recoup a slice of its investment on the rights and TF1 looks to translate French success in this season’s competition into lucrative advertising revenues.

Two French teams have qualified for the semi-final stage for the first time in Champions League history, with exclusive rights to tonight’s match-up between Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig retained by RMC Sport.

Last month, TF1 reached a sublicensing agreement for free-to-air rights to the Champions League final, which will take place at Benfica’s Estádio da Luz on Sunday as the climax to an abridged ‘Final 8’ tournament introduced by Uefa after the European football season was hit by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It will be the first time that TF1 has broadcast the Champions League final since 2015. The broadcaster last year secured the free-to-air rights to the finals of the 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 tournaments during the rights auction in France.

Broadcasters in France must ensure live free-to-air coverage of the Champions League final given the country’s listed events legislation.

Altice last year became embroiled in a row with French broadcast regulator CSA over the selection of its news-focused BFM TV channel to show the 2019 final. At the end of last year, the Conseil d’État, the highest administrative court in France, ruled that BFM TV was not authorised to broadcast last season’s final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

BFM TV attracted an average audience of 2.5 million viewers (and a 14.3-per-cent viewing share) for its live coverage of the 2019 final. The audience peaked at 3.1 million.
Pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus will hold the pay-television rights to the final from 2022 to 2024 as Altice continues to scale down its sports operations in France.

In May, Altice launched a bid to claim back a portion of its annual €350m ($417m) investment in Uefa Champions League and Europa League broadcast rights in France as the 2019-20 competitions continued to be disrupted by Covid-19.

Patrick Drahi, founder of Altice Europe, warned that Altice is “not going to pay for something we’re not getting” and that he expects “some money back very quickly” from Uefa, football’s European governing body.

Altice, which operates the RMC Sport subscription channels in France, has already paid its full instalment for the rights during the 2019-20 season.

Uefa’s sales agency for club competitions, Team Marketing, achieved a record €375m per season for the Champions League rights in France for the three seasons from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

TF1 is to offer its coverage of the Uefa Champions League final in ultra high-definition, as part of an expanded commitment to the format.