France’s football league in last-ditch talks over TV deal

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The French football league is holding last-ditch talks to thrash out a TV deal less than six weeks before the start of the season following a push by private equity firm CVC to bring potential bidders back to the table.

DAZN and Amazon, which operate rival TV streaming services, have returned to negotiations, according to three people close to the discussions, as pressure grows on league executives to find a solution.

The lack of a broadcast deal so close to the start of the season has left some teams in financial peril.

CVC, which in 2022 invested €1.5bn in the Ligue de Football Professionnel in return for a 13 per cent share of the competition’s future commercial revenue, has been instrumental in reviving talks between the broadcasters and the league, said three people familiar with the talks. The negotiations are still being handled by LFP executives.

French club executives have met twice in recent days to discuss the situation but have not come to a decision on how to proceed. A third meeting is planned for Friday in an attempt to reach a consensus on a deal that could release millions of euros for French clubs before the season kicks off on August 18.

“Clubs need to know their financial position quickly in order to make decisions over buying or selling players,” said one media executive.

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Team owners are set to discuss two options: a traditional rights deal involving a combination of broadcasters or the launch of a dedicated French football channel.

DAZN, the UK-based sports streaming service, has offered to buy the majority of games, with payments to the league staggered towards the end of a deal running up to 2029 and linked to subscriber growth numbers. 

Amazon, whose deal with the league expired at the end of last season, has not bid but has held talks, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Qatar-owned BeIN could yet step in to buy up a small block of games if the LFP secures a deal for the bulk of matches with another broadcaster, said two people involved in the discussions. 

Either Amazon or BeIN could step in to acquire the remaining games if DAZN’s offer is accepted, the people said.

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However, Canal+, which was once the key broadcast partner for Ligue 1, this week again reiterated its refusal to take part in the process. 

French league executives are also considering an ambitious proposal to create a new direct to consumer streaming service for Ligue 1 games. 

The league has held talks with Warner Bros Discovery over a deal to stream matches on its Max platform, which launched in Europe this year.

Production of live games would be outsourced to a third party, while revenue from the channel would be split between clubs and Warner Bros.

“It would be huge,” said another media executive. “It would be the first time a major league has gone direct to consumer. But if you’re going to do it, now’s the time, when LFP is at its lowest ebb.”

Such a move would involve the league investing and building its own broadcast infrastructure, the people said, which would prove costly.

Clubs would also have no guarantees on future revenue, although CVC has arranged a lending facility for those seeking short-term funding, according to a person familiar with the matter.

DAZN, Amazon, BeIN and CVC declined to comment. The LFP did not respond to a request for comment.

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