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French rights fees approach $1 billion a year
by Paul Kennedy, February 8th, 2008 8:30AM
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France's Ligue 1 has many structural weaknesses that make the French domestic game lag behind that of other major European countries. Despite its weaknesses, the French league (LFP) will earn almost $1 billion a year in television revenue. Driving the big money offered in bidding that concluded this week is the multi-media marketing tactic of bundling familiar to American consumers but now being introduced by France Telecom.

France's Ligue 1 has many structural weaknesses that make the French domestic game lag behind that of other major European countries.

Many stadiums are antiquated, preventing clubs from cashing in alternative revenue streams.

Most French stars leave for abroad at any early age.

There is little competitive interest in the league -- Lyon is on course to win its seventh straight title.

Fan violence is a problem at big clubs Paris St. Germain and Marseille.

Despite all that, the French league (LFP) will earn almost $1 billion a year in television revenue in bidding that concluded Wednesday.

Canal Plus will pay $675 million a year for nine lots, including two that allow it to pick a Sunday night match each week and the season's 10 best matches.

The LFP created lots -- 12 in all -- covering various broadcast opportunities to enhance the value of the TV package and attract multiple bidders.

France Telecom's Orange will pay $288 million a year for three lots, including the pick of the Saturday night match and rights to broadcast games to mobile phones, as well as video-on-demand featuring highlights.

After Canal Plus bought out main pay-TV competitor TPS in 2006, it was believed French league TV rights fes would fall, but France Telecom's entry into the market changed the dynamics.

France Telecom's interest is based on goal of bundling Internet, TV and telephone packages -- a common marketing tactic in the United States -- and its need to offer soccer across these platforms to increase its customer base.

"Despite a difficult context, French professional football has increased the amount of its rights,'' the LFB boasted in an e-mailed statement issued on Wednesday.

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