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Amazon rights row throws French soccer into fresh turmoil

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The logo of streaming service Amazon Prime Video is seen in this illustration picture taken March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration/File Photo

PARIS, June 11 (Reuters) - France's Canal+ TV group said on Friday it would stop showing top division French soccer games in protest at a decision to award some broadcasting rights to Amazon (AMZN.O).

The Canal+ move plunges the French professional league (LFP) back into crisis just as it hoped to resolve problems resulting from the withdrawal of Spanish media rights agency Mediapro, whose contracts had to be re-tendered after it missed payments.

U.S. streaming giant Amazon had emerged on Friday as one of the winners of the new broadcasting deals, picked by the LFP to broadcast the main League 1 matches until 2024. The broadcast contracts help fund France's soccer clubs.

Under the deal, Canal+ had retained the rights to show the games it was offering customers already. It had also picked up some of the rights mid-season after Mediapro's withdrawal.

But Canal+, historically one of the main soccer TV channels in France, almost immediately issued a statement on Friday saying it would no longer show League 1 games.

"Canal+ regrets the French professional league's decision to pick Amazon's proposal, to the detriment of its historical partners such as Canal+ and beIN Sports," it said.

The LFP was due to get 663 million euros ($802 million) from the newly allocated deals, which also include the rights to some second division matches, French newspaper L'Equipe and TV channel RMC Sport reported earlier.

The LFP could not be reached for immediate comment.

'HISTORIC DEAL'

It was not immediately clear what would happen to the games Canal+ was due to show. The group had done its own deal with beIn Sports for its League 1 games. BeIn declined to comment.

Amazon confirmed in a statement that it had won the rights, but made no comment on Canal+'s withdrawal.

"This historic deal makes Prime Video a major partner of professional football in France," said Amazon, which is due to start showing games from late August under the deal.

Amazon, which already shows Premier League games in England, has been pushing to ramp up its sports streaming worldwide, although it had yet to make an incursion into French soccer.

The U.S. company also had exclusive TV broadcast rights in France for night sessions at the Roland Garros tennis Open this June, which are taking place for the first time.

Editing by Richard Lough, Editing by Sarah White

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