What Ligue 1’s bumper media rights deal means for the rest of Europe

Year after year, European football leagues have seen the value of their media rights jump.

These days of financial fair play mean that outside investment can only take a club so far, whilst commercial deals, matchday revenue and TV money are all ways in which teams have to raise cash. Premier League clubs in England dominate financially, and worldwide broadcast deals are the reason why.

This week, though, it’s Ligue 1’s turn to feel plush.

Chinese-owned group Mediapro have ousted Canal Plus (a traditional powerhouse of French broadcasting) for rights to Ligue 1 games, and as a result the league’s revenue from domestic TV rights will shoot up almost 60% and will break the €1bn mark for the first time. L’Equipe’s front page on Wednesday morning referred to the announcement as ‘Le Big Bang’. A boost for Ligue 1’s coffers, for sure, but perhaps also the start of a new era for French football.

The new deal is set to come into effect from 2020 (so there are still two years before the league actually sees the fruits of this development) and, on the face of it, this looks to be of greatest benefit to the current big clubs in the league.

Paris Saint-Germain probably don’t need this extra cash, though it will make them richer, too. For Marseille, Lyon and Monaco it will help them to hold onto their best players for longer, and perhaps even attract better stars. Indeed, this deal will put France ahead of Spain’s La Liga for the moment (though Spanish rights will be up for grabs again soon and will probably grow again, too) and Italy, whose clubs voted unanimously to cancel their own contract with Mediapro the day before Ligue 1 signed their contract.

Indeed, that timing is worth noting.

Serie A clubs voted to terminate the contract they’d signed because Mediapro did not provide a hefty financial ‘guarantee’ – allegedly because the Italian clubs felt as though the Chinese-owned broadcaster’s pledge to create a new channel to market their TV rights was a risky strategy. As a result, Serie A could well end up with less money than it would have received from Mediapro when the rights finally are sold.

Ligue 1 seems fine with this idea, though Mediapro also have the option of sublicensing their rights – reportedly a way Canal could still show french football via the back door.

With two packages still left, Ligue 1 will be able to raise the cash even further, and could perhaps let others into the party, whilst Iliad – which owns telecoms company Free – have already won rights to one of the lots, and will give an on-demand flavour to French domestic coverage of Ligue 1 from 2020 onwards.

This is naturally a significant step for Ligue 1, but perhaps also for the media rights landscape in Europe. Premier League domestic rights have stagnated (though overseas rights will grow significantly, boosting its overall growth) and it appears the English league has mined all it can out of UK broadcasters. In France, that’s not yet the case.

But although Ligue 1 may well have the second most lucrative domestic rights deal in the world, lots can happen between now and 2020 in the other leagues. On top of which, overseas rights for French football may not be so lucrative. Still, surely anything to add more competition can only make the product easier to sell.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 733 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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