June 2, 2020 / 5:56 AM / a month ago

Spain's Mediapro partners with TF1 to form soccer channel in France

PARIS (Reuters) - Spanish broadcasting group Mediapro gave TF1 Group’s stock a boost on Tuesday by agreeing to form a new soccer channel with France’s biggest private TV operator to air top Ligue 1 league matches in the country.

The four-year, renewable agreement, the financial details of which were not disclosed, propels TF1 to the forefront of France’s soccer TV landscape, previously dominated by Vivendi’s pay-TV Canal Plus and Qatari-owned beIN Sports, and could expand into advertising.

TF1’s shares were up more than 7% at 0920 GMT, their best single-day performance in 16 months.

The new soccer channel, ‘Telefoot’, is named after TF1’s historic TV soccer magazine. Mediapro and TF1 plan a launch in August, or around the time soccer competitions resume once restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus are lifted.

In a news conference held remotely, Mediapro’s founder Jaume Roures said subscriptions to the channel would cost 25 euros per month, with the aim to reach 3.5 million subscribers.

“These agreements could expand in the not-too-distant future,” Roures added, citing advertising, which makes the bulk of TF1’s revenues.

Mediapro two years ago won the rights to air the top matches of Ligue 1 for the seasons extending from 2020/2021 to 2023/2024, leaving Vivendi’s ‘s Canal Plus arm empty-handed.

The pay-TV group, a focus for Vivendi’s leading investor Vincent Bolloré, subsequently signed a deal with beIN Sports, under which it will be able to broadcast some of the Ligue 1 soccer matches.

France’s 2018 soccer rights auction marked the dramatic entry of Mediapro, majority-owned by Chinese private equity fund Orient Hontai, onto France’s broadcasting stage.

Its involvement helped to push up annual broadcasting rights for France’s top soccer league to a record of more than 1.15 billion euros ($1.3 billion).

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Kim Coghill and Hugh Lawson

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