Chinese-owned Mediapro launches offensive for French football

Chinese-owned Mediapro launches offensive for French football

Paris (AFP) – Spain’s Mediapro, majority-owned by a Chinese investment fund, has strengthened its presence in European sports broadcasting by snapping up the rights to broadcast France’s Ligue 1 football, highlighting the growing interest in China for European football.

In a major blow to Vivendi’s French broadcaster Canal Plus which has shown Ligue 1 matches since 1984 and now holds the bulk of the rights, Mediapro on Tuesday won the rights to broadcast the games for the period 2020 to 2024 in an auction by the French football league.

Total yearly broadcasting rights for the championship, including lower level packages of the match bundles on offer which Mediapro did not bid for, will reach a record 1.15 billion euros ($1.33 billion), a 60-percent jump over the previous five-year period.

Mediapro, a major TV and film producer, is planning to create a TV channel specifically dedicated to French football, France’s League of Professional Football (LFP) said in a statement announcing the results of the rights auction.

With 6,600 employees and revenues of 1.6 billion euros in 2017, Mediapro is a heavyweight when it comes to European sports content.

It holds the rights to the bulk of the Spanish league’s matches as well as the rights to broadcast the main international football championships in Spain.

The company also has the rights to broadcast Formula One car racing championships in Spain as well as Euroleague basketball games.

–  ‘Great players’  –

This is not the first time that Mediapro and Canal Plus have clashed over broadcast rights.

Between 2006 and 2013 Mediapro and Spanish pay-TV company Sogecable, which had the rights to broadcast Canal Plus’s programmes in Spain and which historically held the rights to broadcast most La Liga matches in Spain, fought what the press dubbed a “football war”.

Mediapro began negotiating directly with individual clubs the right to broadcast their matches, leading to lengthy court battles with Sogecable. Mediapro eventually ended up with the bulk of Spain’s La Liga broadcast rights.

The Barcelona-based production company, which has produced Woody Allen films such as “Midnight in Paris” in addition to documentaries and TV series, was founded by Jaume Roures, who is reportedly close to Catalonia’s separatist leaders.

Its sudden interest in the French league is directly linked to Chinese private equity group Orient Hontai Capital’s decision in February to acquire a majority stake in Mediapro, said Carlos Canto, a professor at Spanish business school ESADE who focuses on the economics of sports.