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Ligue 1’s “€825m” Amazon deal sees Canal+ threaten blackout

Internet giant secures domestic rights to eight games per week in biggest soccer contract to date.

14 June 2021 Sam Carp
  • Amazon secures rights to 304 Ligue 1 games per season, including ten top pick fixtures
  • Canal+, whose deal to show 20 per cent of games is more expensive than Amazon contract, says it will ‘not broadcast Ligue 1’ 
  • Vivendi-owned pay-TV broadcaster previously sought to hand back rights following collapse of Mediapro deal

Internet giant Amazon has secured the lion’s share of the domestic broadcast rights to French soccer’s Ligue 1 for the three seasons from 2021/22 until 2023/24. 

The deal with the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) grants Amazon rights to 304 top-flight matches per season, which is equivalent to eight games per week. The rights package includes ten top pick games each year, along with 66 second and third picks, in addition to 304 matches from the second-tier Ligue 2.

The financial terms of the deal have not been made public, but the Financial Times (FT) reports that Amazon has agreed to pay the LFP €275 million (US$333.2 million) per year.

However, news of the deal prompted a furious response from Vivendi-owned pay-television broadcaster Canal+, which has a separate deal in place to show two games per week at a cost of €330 million (US$399.8 million) a season.

Canal+ previously sought to hand back its rights, which it sublicenses from BeIN Sports, and called on the LFP to launch a new domestic broadcast tender following the collapse of the organising body’s deal with Spanish agency Mediapro.

The LFP’s original agreement with Mediapro was worth a record €814 million (US$986.1 million) a year, but was terminated barely four months into its first season when the company failed to meet payment deadlines. 

Canal+, which has repeatedly argued that its rights have been significantly devalued due to the collapse of the Mediapro contract, then stepped in to broadcast the remainder of the 2020/21 Ligue 1 season at a cut price. 

However, in March, the broadcaster saw the Paris commercial court rule in favour of the LFP when it did not include the package previously acquired by Canal+ in its new domestic media rights auction. The latest tender therefore only included the rights relinquished by Mediapro. 

Now, after seeing Amazon secure eight fixtures a week for a reported fee lower than what it pays for 20 per cent of the matches, Canal+ has threatened to boycott its agreement to broadcast Ligue 1 games.

‘After the failure of the choice of Mediapro in 2018, Canal + regrets the decision of the Ligue de Football Professionnel to retain Amazon's proposal to the detriment of that of its historic partners Canal+ and BeIN Sports,’ the company said in a statement.

‘Canal+ will therefore not broadcast Ligue 1.’

The Canal+ statement added that the broadcaster will instead focus on its coverage of the Uefa Champions League, English soccer’s Premier League and the Top14 rugby union competition, as well as Formula One and MotoGP.

For Amazon, the deal represents its biggest deal in soccer to date. The company has so far acquired smaller packages of rights to competitions such as the Premier League in the UK and the Champions League in Italy and Germany, but this will be the first time that it is the main domestic broadcaster for one of Europe’s so-called ‘big five’ leagues.

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