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China-backed Mediapro has no intention to resell French soccer rights - manager

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China-backed Mediapro has no intention to resell French soccer rights - manager
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By Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) – Spain’s Mediapro will not resell the broadcasting rights it has won for France’s main soccer competition, betting that its new dedicated TV channel will be distributed by other groups instead, its manager said on Thursday.

Chinese-owned Mediapro won on Tuesday the rights for the top matches of France’s main soccer competition for the seasons extending from 2020/2021 to 2023/2024, leaving Vivendi’s <VIV.PA>‘s pay-TV Canal Plus arm empty-handed.

Canal Plus was outbid for all seven batches offered by France’s soccer governance body, raising questions about its ability to retain subscribers and sending shares of its parent company down on Wednesday.

“We have no intention to resell (the rights)”, Mediapro’s manager Jaume Roures said at a news conference on Thursday.

“You’ll see it will be possible to make a channel at 25 euros per month (for all matches),” he added.

The group, which owns the rights to broadcast La Liga and the Champions League in Spain, is ready to work with Canal Plus and wishes that it loses none of its subscribers, Roures said.

The French leading pay-TV group still has the rights to broadcast some of the country’s Ligue 1 matches up until 2020 and had owned such rights since its creation in 1984.

SFR, the French unit of telecoms and cable group Altice <ATCA.AS>, had also been considered a potential bidder for these rights, but made no offer.

An Altice executive said on Wednesday that it was ready to open talks with Mediapro. Canal Plus’ boss Maxime Saada said the fees Mediapro agreed to pay were too high and he would also consider taking legal action to challenge the results.

Annual broadcasting rights for the French championship will reach a record of more than 1.15 billion euros (1 billion pounds) over the 2020-2024 period.

The fees paid by Mediapro will represent the bulk of this amount, as Roures said the group will pay “close to” 780 million euros annually for the batches it has won, confirming figures earlier reported by French newspaper L’Equipe.

Mediapro suffered a setback in Italy earlier this month after a Milan judge cancelled a tender which awarded it the broadcasting rights for the country’s Serie A games. A judicial source cited a breach of anti-trust rules. ($1 = 0.8576 euros)

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Bate Felix and Alexandra Hudson)

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