The French Football Association (LFP) has been forced to scrap its domestic broadcast rights auction after getting no offers that met the minimum prices for the two main Ligue 1 live packages from 2024 to 2029.
The French league will now try to negotiate with potential broadcast partners directly, an approach that will make it almost impossible for LFP boss Vincent Labrune to hit his target of bringing in €1billion (£870million) a year in media revenue.
That figure has become an obsession for Labrune as it was the number promised by Spanish broadcaster MediaPro in 2018, only for its Telefoot venture to collapse within months of it starting in the 2020/21 season.
The FLP has been dealing with the fallout from that failure ever since, and this auction was seen as a chance to put the bitter rows of the last few years behind the French club game and start to close the financial gap to the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A.
With that in mind, Labrune and his media sales team had set a minimum price of €530million (£460million) for the top package, the first, second and fourth-choice game each weekend, and €270million (£234million) for the remaining six games each weekend.
The hope was that the FLP’s current broadcast partners Amazon Prime and Canal+ would challenge Qatar’s beIN Sports and British sports streamer DAZN for the rights, with US giant Apple potentially joining the fray to drive the value of the packages up even higher.
Unfortunately, Amazon Prime appears to believe it overpaid for the rights in 2021 and is no mood to bid against itself, Canal+ is still smarting from the decision to award MediaPro the rights five years ago, beIN is finally making money and is perfectly happy with the rights it already holds, DAZN is saving up for a run on the Premier League’s rights and Apple is just not interested in French club football.
This is a disaster for Labrune, the FLP and all French clubs, as it is a clear message from the market that Ligue 1 is very much the fifth of the big five leagues, despite the fact that France were a penalty shootout way from repeating as world champions in 2022 and will go into Euro 2024 as favourites.
The French club game, however, lags behind its peers in England, Germany, Italy and Spain. The Premier League makes more than £3.1billion a year from its broadcast rights, while La Liga earns £1.9billion, the Bundesliga £1.3billion and Serie A about £1.2billion.
The LFP will be optimistic that it can still persuade Amazon Prime and Canal+ to bid a little more than they are already paying for their rights, perhaps using DAZN or Apple as a potential alternative to keep them honest, but there is no way the league will be able to achieve the significant increases they were hoping for. And the failure of the L1 tender has also meant they have postponed Friday’s auction for the Ligue 2 rights, which are currently owned by beIN.
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(Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)