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PARIS, May 4 (Reuters) - Vivendi’s pay-TV Canal Plus has retained the rights to broadcast Formula One races in France from 2018 to 2021, two sources close to the matter told Reuters on Thursday.
The media giant, led by billionaire Vincent Bollore, is striving to win back some of the many French subscribers who left Canal Plus after the arrival of new competitors such as Netflix, Qatar-controlled beIN Sports and SFR Group , France’s second-biggest telecoms operator.
Canal Plus currently pays about $40 million a year to broadcast Formula One through a 2013 contract that expires this year. The value of the new contract has not been disclosed.
Formula One Management, which awards broadcast rights for the races, declined to comment.
Along with soccer’s European Champions League, Formula One motor racing is one of the most widely watched sports.
Cut-throat competition is expected this year for TV sports rights in France, with analysts saying that Canal Plus could lose out to SFR Group in the battle for some of the main sports. SFR Group’s deep-pocketed parent Altice has pledged to boost its content offering to lure more customers to its broadband and TV bundles.
Any such loss would add to the difficulties at Canal Plus in France. Losses at the pay-TV company’s channels in France alone wiped 399 million euros ($436.3 million) off the group’s core operating profit for 2016.
Bollore, Vivendi’s chairman and biggest shareholder, confirmed last week that Canal Plus was holding talks with France’s biggest telecoms operator Orange to strengthen their partnership, potentially helping the pay-TV operator to acquire or retain sports rights.
Six months of talks between the two groups have yet to produce results.
Telecoms companies such as BT in Britain have invested heavily in sports rights to broaden their appeal to customers. Orange, which has a distribution agreement with Canal Plus, has little such content of its own. ($1 = 0.9146 euros) (Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Adrian Croft and David Goodman)