The Mediapro soap opera is not yet over. Even today, discussions are at a standstill between the League and the main broadcaster, and we are running straight towards disaster. However, things could have been avoided in 2018. A first warning signal had been sent by the LREM deputy Aurore Bergé.
Interview by Pierre Rondeau
At the very beginning of my mandate, I was rapporteur for a mission on the new audiovisual regulation and the fight against piracy. This is precisely when the league sells its rights to Mediapro. Immediately, I auditioned the members of the LFP. The difficulty is that the French market is little or not regulated and that the League is only accountable for its ability to sell to the highest bidder. The question is therefore not the financial strength of the purchaser or his knowledge of the television or audiovisual environment.
“The Mediapro adventure must create a very powerful precedent for all the leagues, on the marketing of their rights. ” Aurore Bergé
What should have been done?
In my opinion, everything should be reviewed in this sales process. The definition of the best and the best should be debated and posed. Does it make sense to raise the stakes to unrealistic amounts? Will the buyer have the capacity to hold out over the medium and long term? To honor his contract over time? To bring programs to the screen at an affordable price? All these questions deserve to be raised from the outset, from the start of the call for tenders. However, what challenged us in 2018 was the obvious difficulty of Mediapro in being able to make a channel profitable or even to be in balance with regard to the amount of acquired rights. And the only answer the league has given us is: “Our mandate is to sell to the highest bidder. ” Except that it is not necessarily the best bidder, it is not necessarily the most solid actor, it is not necessarily the one who has the capacity to constitute a coherent offer which triggers an act of subscription. If Canal + did not climb higher in the auctions, it is not only a question of means, it was also a healthy response to an unrealistic inflation of the rights of the League which could not allow the profitability of their marketing. to a subscriber base. Finally, there was the Italian precedent with Mediapro. It should have given rise to powerful alerts. We knew that the actor was clearly not serious and solid.
How did the audition go?
I questioned them on several points. In particular on the major risk of seeing the favorite sport of the French being closed, privatized, with a completely fragmented and inaccessible offer, and the risk of failure of this actor, with the Italian precedent. While we must imperatively strengthen the fight against piracy, which remains a characterized theft, we must also see that the players commit not to create prohibitive offers for the French and fragmented between a multiplicity of players who require subscriptions. The League’s only response was “Me, my commitment to my members is to market the rights as expensive as possible” , despite the risk of commercial failure or piracy. It is their mandate: to market the rights and therefore to market to the highest bidder, at the best amount, without imagining the character or profile of the buyer.
“If the League collapses, it is all the funding for amateur sport that follows behind. ” Aurore Bergé
However, it turns out that the best bidder is not always the one with the highest bid …
The best bidder is not necessarily the one who has a strong enough financial backing to hold up over time, and it is not necessarily the one who has the capacity to create a coherent offer, which remains accessible to the French and who will trigger the subscription. But we have no power over the decision of the League. It remains sovereign, it has members, and they give it a mandate. My subject was and still is not today to incriminate the League or to put it on trial. The question was and still is “What is the mandate entrusted to you?” ” Is the simple marketing mandate the right mandate or the right goal? Because here, the only evaluation criterion is the selling price, period.
Do you think that today, the State must intervene and save football, when the League did not listen to you in 2018?
There is an emergency situation, we are touching the most popular sport, the favorite sport of the French, with a major financial risk for clubs, especially amateurs, via redistributions and solidarity payments through the Buffet tax. If the League collapses, it is all the funding of amateur sport that follows behind. So there obviously, it is a national issue. The goal is not to please the League, to please this or that club, but to support the financing of the entire football environment. If the League does not hold up, it is the economy of a large number of clubs, professionals and amateurs, which will be affected by the crisis: stop ticketing, fall in sponsorship, risk of decline in support from local communities, etc. The question will then be whether or not it is necessary to regulate, whether or not the State should intervene sustainably. Let’s not lie to the French: the acquisition of rights is a market. We are not going to nationalize them and then market them. The State cannot have a right of veto on such or such actor or authorize only national actors during calls for tenders. It would not make sense, as we know. But the Mediapro adventure must set a very powerful precedent, for the football league, but also for all the leagues, on the marketing of their rights to target only the highest bidder rather than the highest bidder. It is necessary to monitor the financial solidity, the seriousness of the offer which is proposed, otherwise the questions which are posed today on the foot will arise tomorrow for the tennis, for the rugby and all the other sporting disciplines.
Interview by Pierre Rondeau