Competition watchdog suspends French rugby deal
In a further controversial move affecting the French pay-TV industry, following the decision by broadcast regulator the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel to deny applications from three channels to migrate from pay-TV channels on France’s digital terrestrial TV platform to become free-to-air, France’s competition watchdog, the Autorité de la concurrence, has suspended the agreement between the National Rugby League and Canal Plus Group which saw the broadcaster awarded exclusive rights to broadcast matches in the Top 14 rugby championship for five seasons.
In order not to disrupt the forthcoming championship, the suspension will take place after the conclusion of the 2014/2015 season. A new rights tender procedure for subsequent seasons will be held no later than 31 January 2015.
The decision follows a complaint from beIN Sports, challenging the agreement between the League and Canal Plus Group and the manner in which it was negotiated, suggesting it was anti-competitive.
According to the Autorité de la concurrence, the attractive nature of the Top 14 rights and its role as a driver of pay-TV subscriptions means their marketing should be for a limited period, under transparent and non-discriminatory terms, in accordance with the law. The Autorité de la concurrence noted that negotiations to extend Canal Plus’s exclusivity began in the autumn of 2013 without waiting for the submission of tenders.
In a statement, Canal Plus Group said it noted the provisional measures decided by the Autorité de la concurrence and confirmed that it would not affect the broadcaster’s Top 14 coverage for the 2014/2015 season.
As for measures relating to subsequent seasons, Canal Plus Group expressed its profound disagreement and announced its intention to appeal the Court of Appeal of Paris against these measures.
Similarly, the League noted the decision and said it had also decided to challenge it by appealing to the Court of Appeal of Paris.