Several Ligue 1 clubs are facing bankruptcy due to the league’s unfinished broadcast deal in France. Teams such as Lens, who finished second in Ligue 1 in the 2022/23 season, and eight-time league winners Nantes, could all close their doors depending on the league’s indecisiveness, per a report from L’Equipe.

The LFP, the body that governs France’s domestic leagues, is deciding between a $406 million deal from DAZN for the domestic rights to show games to French audiences or launching a paid streaming service available for anyone to subscribe.

The TV rights deal will have an impact on how active Ligue 1 clubs are in the transfer market, with most clubs waiting for news on a potential breakthrough. The outcome could also determine how the LFP handles negotiations for the media rights to Ligue 1 in the United States.

Ligue 1 continues vital broadcast deal talks

Per French outlet L’Equipe, a group of Ligue 1 officials recently met to negotiate their TV rights deal dilemma. They have two options on their table. They could sign an unfavorable deal with DAZN through the 2028-2029 season or launch a streaming service.

The LFP’s domestic TV rights troubles originate from Mediapro’s shock acquisition of the domestic rights for Ligue 1 . After challenging 34-year partner Canal+ in an auction, Mediapro bought the rights for a whopping $882 million per year. However, they missed payments due to COVID-induced financial difficulties and paid a $108 million severance fee halfway through the deal.

Now roughly $500 million short of their Mediapro deal, Ligue 1 sold the remaining games to Amazon over Canal+ for a cut-price $280 million.

Ligue 1 entered the 2023/24 season hoping to auction off the rights for over $850 million but canceled their auction in October after receiving low bids. Canal+ no longer wants the rights to Ligue 1, skipping out in favor of the Champions League and Premier League.

With the season due to start in nearly a month, the league is weighing up a $406 million deal from DAZN, half of their previous valuation. DAZN wanted to expand throughout Europe after missing out on the domestic rights to the Premier League, and a struggling Ligue 1 looking for a buyer is their perfect chance to enter France.

Another option for Ligue 1 is launching their over-the-top streaming service. It’s Ligue 1’s last-ditch effort to show their games. They would partner with WarnerBros Discovery to create a non-exclusive streaming service that broadcasts 100% of Ligue 1 games. It would let Ligue 1 show games and make revenue but, at the same time, drastically reduce their exposure to TV audiences. According to reports, the league would price the channel at $27 monthly. Amazon, Molotov TV, and Google TV are also interested in associating with the potential streaming service.

Regardless, the French clubs left, again, without making a decision. It’s marked a tense period of negotiations, with Ligue 1’s value plummeting each week. After the start of the season, Ligue 1 rejected a $433 million deal. They may settle for the $408 million deal, or less, depending on the route they take.

Ligue 1’s decision will impact clubs and countries

If Ligue 1 and club presidents don’t reach a decision soon on their broadcast deal, smaller Ligue 1 clubs could suffer. The newly promoted Auxerre and Angers, along with Lens, Nantes, Reims, Montpellier, Brest, and Le Havre could all face bankruptcy if Ligue 1 doesn’t settle on a rights deal soon.

Ligue 1 is dependent on TV deals to help stay afloat. Aside from PSG and Lyon, who recently sold over $400 million in assets, Ligue 1 has stayed quiet in the transfer market, anxiously waiting for news of negotiations.

Lens, who recently played in last year’s Champions League, owes over $100 million and could sell Arsenal target Elye Wahi. Auxerre reportedly paused some of its transfer plans as it waits for TV rights certainty. Ligue 1’s fall-out is a pivotal moment for the future of its club and the league itself. If the league doesn’t reach an agreement for its domestic rights soon, the league could hurtle towards disbandment.

The news will also have a huge impact on the United States. No broadcaster has acquired the American rights to Ligue 1 after BeIN SPORTS’ contract expired. If Ligue 1 decides to open its streaming service in France, it could do the same in the States.

As of press time, there have been no updates concerning which broadcaster, if any, will land American rights. Previously, Ligue 1 executives have expressed a desire to market their league differently in the United States. For instance, the LFP could play some games in America as they search for a new suitor.

“When you consider the national team, young players, the quality of our academies, and the breadth of talent,” LFP CEO Ben Morel told World Soccer Talk. “That has not translated yet into the strength of our league. We need to become more relevant internationally, and the US is a key market to that.”

Ligue 1 will begin on August 18, giving the LFP merely five weeks to sort out their domestic rights difficulties.

Photo: Imago