TV rebates: Champions League broadcast rights in limbo in France

May 26 – The Champions League broadcast bubble took a pin prick at the end of last week when French telecoms giant Altice said it was demanding a rebate on its broadcast rights.

On a call with analysts Altice founder Patrick Drahi said: “We already paid €175 million in July last year for the first part of the season and we paid in January another €175 million for the second part of the season.”

“Problem is: I didn’t see anyone play since mid-March. We’re not gonna pay the league for something I’m not getting, ok?… basically, I expect some money back, very quickly.”

Altice acquired French rights for three seasons in 2017 that will expire at the end of the 2021 season. The deal was for €350 million per season in a bid to drive new subscribers to its RMC Sport and BFMTV channels.

In January Altice rejected a bid from Mediapro who wanted the rights to feed into the football channel based on Ligue1 and Ligue2 football that it is launching in the French market. That bid was rejected with RMC Sport saying it would retain Champions League rights for the next 18 months.

With the possibility of finishing the current Champions League now uncertain and the anticipated change of season dates providing loopholes in the delivery criteria of broadcast contracts, an opening looks to have been created not just for a rebate from UEFA on the current season but also a withdrawal from rights contract for the 2020/21 season.

Canal+ and BeIN Sports jointly acquired rights to the Champions League for the 2021-24 seasons. They might be tempted to pick up the 2020/21 season if it came available at a knockdown price. Mediapro’s appetite for the French rights will have likely diminished, having failed to win the 2021-24 bid.

Altice is reportedly staging a withdrawal from the sports rights marketplace and looks set to shutter its RMC Sport News Channel next month.

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