Six-year Ligue 1 TV rights deals in sub-Saharan Africa as fees soar
Six-year rights deals in sub-Saharan Africa for French soccer’s Ligue 1 have been agreed by Canal Plus Afrique, the French-language subscription broadcaster, and Kwesé Sports, the Econet Media-owned pay-TV broadcaster.
The deals, which run from 2018-19 to 2023-24 and are subject to the signature of long-form contracts, have been agreed by BeIN Media Group, the international pay-TV broadcaster that holds the Ligue 1 media rights worldwide in a deal worth €80 million ($95.4 million) per year over the same six-season period.
Canal Plus Afrique has retained the French-language rights in the region, while Kwesé is set to replace Fox Sports as the English- and Portuguese-language rights-holder across sub-Saharan Africa.
The total value of the Ligue 1 rights in the sub-Saharan region is understood to have come close to tripling, rising from the current figure of €12 million per year to around €35 million per year, amid stiff competition for the English-language rights.
BeIN and the LFP, the French professional league, are seeking to maximise the heightened interest in Ligue 1 since the arrival of Brazilian star Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record transfer deal in the summer.
There is also increased inventory on offer during the new cycle, with BeIN offering rights in its package to the Trophée des Champions, the season opener between the league and cup winners that has been marketed separately until now. Along with rights to Ligue 1 and the Trophée des Champions, the broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa will also land rights to the second-tier Ligue 2 and Coupe de la Ligue, the league cup competition.
Canal Plus currently pays the lion’s share of the rights fee in sub-Saharan Africa, shelling out around €10 million per season, a fee that is thought to have doubled under the terms of the new agreement.
Fox Sports, which sub-licensed rights on to pay-TV operator StarTimes for the current cycle, is understood to pay around €2 million per season at present.
That figure is expected to jump to €15 million per season from next season onwards in the agreement with Kwesé, after stiff competition for the rights coming from StarTimes and SuperSport.
There is also coverage in sub-Saharan Africa of one Ligue 1 match per week (the Saturday 5pm game) on TV5 Monde, the French-language channel, as part of a global rights carve-out.
Kwesé Sports was not yet up and running when the previous Ligue 1 rights deals in sub-Saharan Africa were agreed by the MP & Silva agency and its swoop for the property will serve as a boost after it lost out to SuperSport for the Uefa Champions League and Premier League rights last year.
Americas BeIN kicked off its Ligue 1 rights sales process around last year’s Sportel trade fair and will now switch its attention to agreeing new deals in Latin America and Neymar’s home market of Brazil.
The bid deadline for rights in Brazil, Central/South America and USA falls on Thursday.
SporTV, the Globosat-owned cable sports broadcaster, and ESPN Brasil, the pay-TV broadcaster, are the incumbent rights-holders in Brazil, where ratings have soared since Neymar’s arrival.
ESPN, DirecTV and Televisa Deportes are all incumbent Ligue 1 rights-holders in Latin America.
BeIN is expected to retain exclusive rights to showcase coverage on its channels in various markets, including the Middle East and North Africa, Spain, Turkey, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines, but USA, where BeIN is also active, was included in the Americas invitation to tender.
Ligue 1 games are currently shown by BeIN Sports in USA, where there is also weekly coverage on TV5 Monde.
As part of an in-house drive, BeIN is offering bespoke content to broadcasters and packaging it together with the rights, with Brazil an obvious candidate given the interest around Neymar.
BeIN is going to market offering the rights for three or six seasons.
BeIN’s €80-million-per-season international rights agreement with the LFP represented a huge 146-per-cent increase on the average of €32.5 million per season paid by the broadcaster under its previous agreement.
The deal was widely praised at the time of its announcement in the middle of 2014, but the Ligue 1 international rights income has since been dwarfed by the sums accrued by the other ‘big four’ European leagues, in part because of inflated spending in China (which is now receding given government curbs), and the LFP has already unveiled plans to close the gap on its rivals.
The LFP could derive more from the forthcoming cycle, given that its contract with BeIN does include a revenue-share agreement, but only once a certain percentage over and above the minimum guarantee has gone to BeIN.