April 28, 2018 / 10:51 PM / 5 months ago

Altice's French unit 'unlikely' to bid for Ligue 1 rights - executive

PARIS (Reuters) - Altice’s French division SFR is “unlikely” to bid for the rights to broadcast the country’s soccer first division or “Ligue 1” championship between 2020 and 2024, its head Alain Weill told Journal du Dimanche (JDD) on Sunday.

Altice and SFR logos are pictured before a news conference in Paris, France March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

If confirmed, the move would leave Vivendi’s pay-TV business Canal Plus and Qatari-controlled beIN Sports channels head-to-head to compete for the rights.

The debt-ridden telecoms and cable group has shifted its focus from heavy investments on TV content to improving its commercial performance since a loss in investors confidence sent its shares down by more than 50 percent at the end of last year.

Asked whether SFR would take part in the next round of tender for France’s Ligue 1 soccer rights, Weill said: “This is unlikely and we will make reasonable and coherent choices.”

“Our (business) model works very well without this championship, important as it.”

SFR already owns the rights to broadcast European Champions League soccer matches until 2021 in France, for which it agreed to pay 350 million euros ($424 million) per year, sources have told Reuters.

It is also getting the rights in France for the Europa League soccer tournament, which ranks below the main Champions League.

Weill said a dedicated new sports pay-TV channel, dubbed RMC Sport, will be made available to SFR’s clients to broadcast the matches for both championships.

The group is open to talks with rivals Iliad and Orange, as well as Canal Plus, for potential distribution agreements, Weill said.

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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