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Amazon arrival in French football sparks boycott from Canal+

Paris (AFP) – The award of a share of French league television rights to Amazon on Friday sparked a furious boycott from the other winning bidder Canal+.

Canal+ said it was not prepared to share the rights with Amazon.

“Canal+ will not, therefore, be broadcasting Ligue 1,” it said in a statement.

With less than two months to go before the start of the 2021-2022 French season in early August, the French league (LFP) TV rights picture has again been thrown into chaos.

The LFP had been scrambling to find replacements for Spanish-Chinese company Mediapro, which abandoned its record deal last season.

On Friday, the LFP opted to split the Ligue 1 rights between Canal+ and Amazon, also awarding the US retail giant a share of Ligue 2 games with beIN Sport.

The deals are worth 663 million euros ($802 million) and are due to run from 2021-2024.

The total meant France’s professional clubs were to share half the 1.2bn euros a season they thought they would receive when they chose Mediapro, whose foray into France turned into a fiasco.

But the total was still close to the amount Canal+ and beIN paid when they split the live rights in the 2016-2020 cycle.

Canal+ was due to pay 332 million euros a season over the period for the right to broadcast two fixtures from each round of Ligue 1 in France. Amazon was to pay 250m euros a year for the domestic rights to the other eight.

Canal+, which had failed on Friday morning in a legal bid to block Amazon, immediately announced that it would refuse to broadcast Ligue 1 football next season.

“After the failure of the choice of Mediapro in 2018, Canal+ regrets the decision of the Ligue de Football Professionnel to accept today the bid of Amazon to the detriment of that of its historical partners Canal+ and beIN Sports,” said subscription channel Canal+ in a statement.

Under the deals accepted by the LFP earlier on Friday, BeIN, which bid for 80 percent of Ligue 1 matches and all Ligue 2 games, would have to make do with two Ligue 2 matches per round at a cost of 30 million euros a season. Amazon will pay 9 million euros, plus production costs, estimated at 25 million euros, for the rest.

Amazon are poised to add French football to the recently-acquired rights to show Champions League matches in Italy. It also shows live football in Germany and has rights to some English Premier League matches. It also shows tennis, including some Grand Slam tournaments.

The Mediapro contract was terminated in December, barely four months in, after the company failed to meet payment deadlines.

Under that deal, Mediapro showed 80 percent of games with Canal+ paying 330 million euros a year for the rest.

Canal+ said in its statement that French viewers could instead watch the sport it is prepared to broadcast: “The two best matches of each round of the Champions League… the Super Cup between Chelsea and Villarreal… Premier League, Top 14 (rugby), Formula One and MotoGP.”

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