Who will be a candidate for the purchase of future PSG-Real Madrid or Manchester City-Lille football matches? On Monday, 14 October, UEFA, which brings together the European football clubs, kicks off the call for tenders of the Champions League, the European football championship, for the seasons 2021-2024.
If Qatari BeIN Sports and Canal + do not clearly reveal their ambitions, Altice, parent company of SFR, and Spanish Mediapro say they will respond to UEFA's call. In 2017, the owner of the telecom operator and RMC Sport won the competition against Canal +, its historical broadcaster, by paying 350 million euros per year for the seasons 2018-2021.
Two years later, the group of Patrick Drahi is satisfied with the balance sheet of the competition, explains a source close to the group. Yet, the Champions League hearings on RMC Sport are weak.
The PSG-Real Madrid match, broadcast on 18 September, attracted only 707,000 viewers. "At the time of Canal + or BeIN Sports, posters with PSG attracted between 1.5 million and 2 million viewers", testifies a broadcaster.
No distribution agreement
At Altice, beyond the audience, we prefer to link the improved results of SFR and the presence of RMC Sport in the subscription packages. The six RMC Sport channels, available for SFR customers at a price of € 9 per month, or accessible directly on the Internet for € 19 per month, account for 2 million customers, according to the latest public figures, at the end of 2018, including 700 000 Internet subscribers.
After two chaotic years, the operator has raised the bar. Its turnover grew by 4% in the second quarter, while the number of fixed and mobile subscribers increased. Sufficient, in the eyes of the group, to redefense considerable sums.
Yet, amortize such an expensive activity – the total grid cost reaches 600 million euros per year, said the boss of Altice France, Alain Weill, at World – seems complicated. Especially since Altice has never managed to conclude a distribution agreement with other RMC Sport telecom operators. The latter estimated that the 120 million to 200 million euros per year of guaranteed minimums claimed were too expensive.
Four lots put into play
Faced with SFR, Mediapro promises to be a major competitor. Breaking into French football in 2018, Spanish will broadcast 80% of Ligue 1 in the 2020-2021 season, rights for which he has agreed to spend 780 million euros per year.
Less than a year from the beginning of the festivities, the work is not very advanced. Mediapro has just named the boss of France, Julien Bergeaud, former Eurosport and Discovery.
At Canal +, where a cost reduction plan for the abolition of 18% of staff has been initiated, the situation is more complex. However, it is difficult for the sports and cinema chain to skip the most prestigious football competition, when it lost 209,000 customers in the first half, falling to 4.5 million subscribers.
Finally, BeIN Sports also appears in a delicate position. according to Release, its subscriber base would have melted to 3.2 million customers end 2018, against 4 million during the World Cup football. Above all, his accounts showed a loss of 81 million euros at the end of last year. How much will Qatar be ready to bet?
The television channels have already received from UEFA a document describing the content of the four prizes put into play. The first one has the best poster on Tuesday night, the second one on Wednesday and the final on third, the rest of the matches, and the last batch, intended for a clear channel, contains the only final. They have until the end of November to hand in their copy.
UEFA is then free to hold as many rounds of betting as it wishes and is not tied to a reserve price, which would require it to award a prize when that price is reached. At this stage, one thing is certain: there is hardly room for four paid football offers in France.