French pay-TV channel Canal Plus has secured a five-year contract with the French National Rugby League (LNR) to keep the broadcast rights of France’s premier club rugby competition, the Top 14, in a deal worth up to US$228 million.
In a similar agreement to the one held currently, Canal Plus will show at least three pre-recorded matches in each Top 14 gameweek – one on Canal + and two on Canal + Sport – with the remaining four games shown on the Rugby + channel and two highlights shows featuring all the action permitted.
Canal Plus will pay the LNR a minimum of US$39 million a year under the terms of the contract, although, depending on viewership and subscriber numbers, this could rise to US$45.5 million. The agreement runs for five years, commencing from the 2011/12 season.
However, the new deal marks a slight decrease on the current Top 14 broadcast rights package in terms of maximum revenue potential. Canal Plus are believed to pay approximately US$42.6 million under the current contract, supplemented by Orange, who pay US$4.7 million for the mobile and video on demand rights, totaling US$47.7 million.
The most significant change to the current rights package will see Canal Plus given the right to provide video on demand and mobile coverage following Orange’s decision not to renew its contract for these rights.
Since its launch on 27th December 2010, the tender for the broadcast rights has encountered a measure of controversy. Canal Plus initially offered an annual fee of around US$25.5 million for two games, something the LNR quickly rejected.
Jean-Louis Dutaret, head of acquisitions at Canal Plus, welcomed the new deal, stating: "The variable depending on the audience and the number of subscribers is a very good thing for us. The audience for the prime-time games varies between 800 and 850,000 viewers for the three games, and 700,000 for the afternoon matches.”
The Top 14 has become widely recognised as one of the best club rugby leagues in the world, having attracted a host of rugby’s leading stars including Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter in recent years.