Handball - 09 Dec 2013 - By Martin Ross
The LNH, France’s professional handball league, could be set to terminate its broadcast rights contract with Canal Plus, the pay-television broadcaster, prematurely, as it seeks to derive greater income from the domestic media market, it is claimed.
Canal Plus holds live rights to the country’s top handball league in a deal that expires at the end of the 2014-15 season, but the league is contemplating whether to end the agreement and could make an announcement on future plans at the start of next year, reports Le Figaro.
A move to launch a new invitation to tender for the LNH rights would be seen as a way of driving up the value of the rights through the fierce competition between Canal Plus and Al Jazeera’s BeIN Sport.
The LNR, French rugby union’s professional league, recently opted to invoke a break clause in its contract with Canal Plus and issued an invitation to tender for its domestic broadcast rights from 2014-15 onwards.
Canal Plus is presently thought to pay €1.2 million ($1.65 million) per season for the LNH rights, leaving the league officials to look on with envy at the fee of close to €6 million per season received by the LNB, the top-tier French basketball league, in its rights deal with Canal Plus.
Etienne Capon, director general of the LNH, told Le Figaro that BeIN Sport is interested in acquiring the rights to French handball’s top flight.
Ahead of the 2012-13 season, BeIN Sport acquired rights in France to the EHF Champions League, European handball’s top-tier clubs competition, replacing Canal Plus. In August, Al Jazeera's French pay-television broadcaster also picked up exclusive broadcast rights to the DKB Handball Bundesliga, Germany's top handball league, in a four-year deal.
Al Jazeera is also among the bidders for the international broadcast rights to the major competitions of the International Handball Federation, the sport’s world governing body, from 2014 to 2017, having reportedly offered over SFr100 million ($112.2 million).
However, Canal Plus this year agreed a rights deal with the FFHB, the French handball federation, securing a multi-platform rights deal for the matches of France’s men’s and women’s international teams (excluding matches at major international tournaments), the women’s domestic league in France, the women’s league cup competition and the Golden League, the international teams competition.
In 2011, Canal Plus agreed a contract to not only broadcast the top-tier handball league, but also the Coupe de la Ligue, the league cup competition, and the Trophée des Champions, the four-team club tournament played before the beginning of each league season. The pay-television broadcaster subsequently sub-licensed rights for selected league matches to France Télévisions, the French public-service broadcaster, in a long-term deal.
Amaury Sport Organisation, the French sports events organiser and agency, brokered the agreement with Canal Plus on behalf of the LNH.
At the time, the LNH admitted that the rights fee agreed with Canal Plus was lower than for the previous contract, but claimed that the coverage on the Canal+ Sport and Sport+ television channels would boost the reputation and exposure of the league.
Canal Plus’ deal for the LNH rights replaced the previous domestic deals with Orange, the telecommunications operator, and Eurosport, the pan-European sports broadcaster, which ran from 2008-09 to 2010-11.