Amazon has agreed to buy the broadcasting rights to most of the top football matches in the next three seasons, in a significant expansion of its ambitions in live sports in Europe.
The economic trade giant won Vivendi’s Canal Plus unit in a competitive auction held by the French Ligue 1 government, Ligue Professionnelle de Football (LFP), on Friday in Paris. To take it have been eight games a week, and also the second Ligue 2.
A media industry leader close to the deal said Amazon had agreed to pay about 275 million euros a year to examine about 80 percent of the top-tier games in France.
But the deal angered Vivendi executives because Canal Plus had previously agreed to pay 330 million euros for the remaining 20 percent, or just three games a week.
Canal Plus said Friday in a statement Friday that it will stop controlling Ligue 1 matches throughout next season’s game, but did not specify whether it will continue to pay as agreed in its existing contract.
The result of the surprise auction is the final touch in a difficult tightening for French football since its choice of a new broadcaster for 2020 to 2024, the Spanish-Chinese company said. Mediapro, however, proved disastrous.
Mediapro stopped paying and went wrong just six months into a four-year, 780 million-euro deal.
That left the league without a diffuser, embroiled in legal battles, and put French clubs under immense financial stress as the pandemic put an end to the sport last year.
Amazon’s arrival will be seen as a savior by some in Ligue 1.
The U.S. technology company has consistently acquired broadcasting rights to major sporting events in major markets, seeking to link viewers to its Prime subscription services. In recent years, he has secured rights to broadcast National Football League matches in the United States, is one of the broadcasters of the English Premier League and the ATP men’s tennis tour in the United Kingdom.
This week in France, Amazon aired live tennis matches of the French Open, the first time the tournament has not been free to air on the country’s TV channels. But overnight sessions on Amazon Prime have been plagued by technical issues, and it’s unclear what impact it has had on ratings since Amazon doesn’t release figures.
Alex Green, who runs Amazon’s sports business in Europe, said: “We are incredibly happy to bring each club and the most exciting games” to its Prime video platform.
But the league’s choice has sidelined Canal Plus and could threaten its existing broadcasting contract with the largest pay operator in France.
“Following the failure of Mediapro’s choice in 2018, Canal + regrets LFP’s decision to choose Amazon over its historic partners Canal + and beIN Sports [The Qatar-based broadcaster]. Thus, Canal + does not broadcast League 1, ”he said.
Canal Plus may now seek to challenge the terms and process of the auction in court. In recent months, he had pushed the league to start over with a new auction sale for all TV rights from 2021 to 2024, and had even filed an antitrust complaint seeking to force his hand. French regulators rejected that effort earlier this week, paving the way for the league to hold its auction on Friday.
The LFP did not respond to a request for comment.