Court appoints mediator to sort out French TV rights chaos

August 1 – An independent mediator has been appointed to find a resolution to the TV rights dispute between Canal+ and the French league (LFP), and by association beIN Sports.

Canal+ is refusing to pay a €330 million rights fee for live LFP rights that it has sub-licensed from beIN Sports – effectively 20% of the LFP’s Ligue 1 live inventory. The LFP has demanded that beIN Sports fufill the contract, though beIN Sports maintains that Canal+ should fulfil their contract and pay up, rather than leave beIN Sports with their bill.

The dispute arose because the league, following the spectacular failure of the Mediapro €750 million deal with the LFP, then sold their 80% of the inventory to Amazon at a knock down price of just €250 million.

Canal+ argued that the €330 million sub-license they had was too high and that the League’s sale of 80% of the live rights to Amazon in a €250 million deal distorted the market. beIN Sports didn’t disagree but at the same time argued that it shouldn’t have to pay the rights fee just because Canal+ didn’t want to pay. Canal+ had already paid for one year of the agreement that was contractually still in force.

A Nanterre court ruled that Canal+ could only terminate the contract if beIN Sports sued Canal+. beIN Sports sued and the court subsequently froze Canal+’s right to terminate the €330 million broadcast contract. Now the court has appointed an arbitrator. beIN Sports is adamant that any changes to the contract need to be sorted out between Canal+ and the LFP. One thing that looks certain is that Canal+ will not broadcast the matches it licensed when the league kicks off next week.

In an email to beIN Sports staff Yousef Al-Obaidly, CEO, beIN Media Group, and president, beIN SPORTS France, said: “Since the award by LFP of Mediapro’s previous rights to French football to Amazon, there has been a huge amount of uncertainty and contention.  Throughout this period, we have constantly sought to persuade the main disputing parties to find practical solutions.  At the same time, as a company, we have come under very aggressive and unjustified attacks.

“As a result, we have been forced to take measures that we wouldn’t ordinarily need to – simply to protect our interests.  One such measure is the starting of conciliation proceedings this week, the aim of which is for an amicable resolution to the current crisis to be found by a well-known and skilful conciliator – which has unfortunately been beyond the parties until now.  I want to be absolutely clear that the conciliation proceedings do not relate to our solvency – this is simply a measure to protect our interests and for a solution between all the parties, we hope, to be found.”

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