Mediapro Soccer Ambitions Threatened as French League Cuts Ties

France’s soccer league pulled its TV deal with Mediapro, news agency AFP reported, in a blow to the Spanish company’s campaign to become a new force in European sports broadcasting.

The sporting body withdrew the domestic rights after Mediapro missed a payment deadline, in a decision that still needs to be validated by a commercial tribunal, AFP said, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the matter.

Mediapro, established by Spanish media entrepreneur Jaume Roures, had agreed to pay 800 million euros ($969 million) a season for most of the live rights to French elite matches, involving clubs such as Marseilles and Paris St. Germain. Until the current season, the main rights had been held for several years by the country’s biggest pay-TV network, Canal Plus, and Qatar-based BeIN Sports.

The contract breakdown couldn’t come at a worse time for the league, with many clubs already in financial trouble after struggling to draw audiences back to games being played to largely empty stands due to coronavirus restrictions.

When Roures came from nowhere to scoop up the rights in 2018, auction proceeds surged from the previous sale, and clubs saw an opportunity to close the wealth gap with their richer neighbors in Britain, Spain, Germany and Italy.

Mediapro was dealt a blow when it failed to strike a deal for Canal Plus to carry Telefoot. The channel attracted roughly 600,000 subscribers via other platforms by October. Around 5 million would be needed to sustain the new service, according to Francois Godard of media research firm Enders Analysis.

Representatives for Mediapro, the French league and Canal Plus declined to comment.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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