Top 14 rights fee rockets as Canal Plus secures shock deal

Canal Plus has extended a rights deal for the Top 14 just days after France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), the body that operates the rugby union club competition, said it had postponed a domestic rights tender after becoming the subject of legal action by the French pay-television broadcaster.

The new deal, announced suddenly yesterday (Tuesday) evening, will run for five years, from 2014-15 to 2018-19, and will cover all media platforms in all countries where Canal Plus operates.

The agreement is worth more than double the previous deal, which was due to expire at the end of the 2013-14 season. The LNR will receive a total of €355m ($484m) over the five years, rising from €70m in each of the first two years to €71m in the third year and then €72m in each of the final two years.

The Canal Plus and Canal Plus Sport channels will show at least three “staggered” matches every match day, with other games taking place at the same time available on the broadcaster’s Rugby Plus pay-television service. The agreement includes exclusive rights to the play-off semi-finals and non-exclusive live coverage of the Top 14 final, which will also be shown by a free-to-air broadcaster. Canal Plus will also show regular magazine programmes and the broadcaster is also considering launching a new magazine programme on Sunday evenings.

Canal Plus will also be responsible for distributing the Top 14’s rights in countries where the broadcaster does not operate, as part of a revenue-sharing agreement with the LNR.

In December, the LNR activated a cancellation clause in its five-year agreement with Canal Plus, from 2011-12 to 2015-16. The LNR curtailed the deal, worth an average of €31.7m per year, with effect from the end of the 2013-14 season, in order to seek a more lucrative rights deal.

On Friday, the LNR said that Canal Plus had launched “totally unfounded” legal action against the body that had disrupted the “smooth running of the tender” for the rights to the Top 14 and the second-tier ProD2 divisions to run for four seasons, from 2014-15 to 2017-18. The bids were due to be submitted the following Monday.