Mediapro on Wednesday reiterated its desire to renegotiate its TV rights deal for Ligue 1 as French football reels from its decision to not make this month’s scheduled payment.
In a packed press conference in Paris, the firm’s CEO Jaume Roures said that the company had no intention of abandoning its four-year, 800 million-euro ($936m) per season agreement with France’s football league (LFP) but needed to open talks on payments for the current campaign as the coronavirus pandemic is biting into earnings.
“No-one could have predicted the social and economic effects of Covid-19. This has lead to us seeing with the LFP how we can adapt to the situation, without calling into question the committment we made in April 2018,” Roures said, referring to when the 2020-2024 rights agreement was struck.
Mediapro won the bulk of the rights for the top two divisions, which were worth 1.15 billion euros in total.
“The contract is here to stay, that’s what we want. The only think we ask is that we adapt things for this season,” added Roures.
Roures also said that Chinese-owned Mediapro, whose solvency has been called into question, would be able to “get by”.
Mediapro is the main broadcaster for France’s top two football divisions but failed to pay the 172 million-euro October tranche destined to be distributed among the clubs. The LFP says that Mediapro is talking to a commercial court about mediation.
“We have pleny of confidence in the conciliation process, which will take some weeks,” said Roures.
“I think we have all the means to find a reasonable solution. The contract is here to stay, we should not forget that.”
Mediapro’s decision to withhold payment sparked outrage among France’s professional clubs, for whom TV rights represent, on average, a third of revenues.
Last week the LFP threatened to rip up the contract with Mediapro. Executive director general Arnaud Rouger said in an email seen by AFP that, if an agreement was not reached, the LFP would “need to consider handing the contract over to other operators”.
On Monday, the LFP registered a loan of 112 million euros to give clubs some financial breathing room.
In an interview with AFP, Roures said that Telefoot, the channel Mediapro set up to broadcast matches in France, would not be closed despite only gaining 600,000 subscribers, well below the target of 3.5 million.
“Mediapro has a turnover of two billion euros. We are 26 years old. We broadcast 16 football leagues from around the world. We have always honoured our contracts,” he said.
“If the French consumer wants to see Ligue 1, the Champions League, he must subscribe to Telefoot, because Telefoot will be kept alive. Telefoot will not disappear, neither tomorrow, nor the day after tomorrow.”