TF1 / Canal + conflict: black screen on the Blues during the World Cup?

Since September 2, Canal+ no longer broadcasts any channel from the TF1 group. In question: a commercial dispute which is slow to be settled, between two audiovisual giants firmly decided, for the moment, to camp on their positions. Taken hostage, many football fans could not follow the Denmark-France match on Sunday. And there is no guarantee that the problem will be solved by the start of the World Cup, in less than two months.

And suddenly the black screen. By pressing the number 1 button on their remote control on Sunday evening, football fans and unconditional supporters of the French team expected to come across the match of their proteges in Denmark. Many of them have, without incident, attended the rout of the Blues, dominated by much more conquering Scandinavians (2-0). Others, on the other hand, saw nothing at all. A blessing in disguise with regard to the performance of the band to Didier Deschamps, will say the most sarcastic. However, this inconvenience had nothing to do with a technical problem that arose at the last minute. On the contrary, it was largely predictable: since September 2, Canal+ no longer broadcasts the channels of the TF1 group (la Une, therefore, but also TMC, TFX, TF1 Séries Films and LCI) due to a disagreement over distribution rights . All those who watch television via a Canal box, the MyCanal platform or the TNTSat satellite offer were therefore deprived of the League of Nations poster, which attracted “only” 5.91 million viewers (they were 6.4 million ahead of France-Croatia in June).

Position war

But what is the problem, exactly? In summary, the TF1 group charges a certain amount to the operators who distribute its channels via their boxes or digital offers. The group led by Gilles Pélisson wanted to renegotiate the contract in force with Canal+, which expired at the end of August. However, the Vivendi subsidiary refused to pay a bill far too high for its taste. “TF1 is asking for a lot more money than before, since we are talking about a 50% increase (from ten to fifteen million euros, Editor’s note). Canal+ does not want to pay, so we find ourselves faced with a pure and hard commercial dispute ” , explains Pierre Maes, consultant in the sports TV rights sector. This is not the first time that a conflict on the background of negotiations around the distribution of channels has broken out between the two powerful audiovisual groups, since this had already been the case in 2018. At the time, it did not However, it had taken them only a week to agree. “There, everyone is camped on their positionsobserves Thierry Moreau, former editor-in-chief of TV 7 Days. TF1 settled on the idea of ​​a long conflict, with a major communication campaign to explain to its viewers how to receive its channels other than via Canal. At first, its audience loss was brutal, between 12 and 15%. It has risen a little since then, but the drop remains significant. » The JTs of the first channel are now regularly outstripped by those of France 2, while its entertainment programs show figures well below expectations.

“If, in two months, everyone connects to MYTF1 to watch a France match, there could be big problems. » Pierre Maes, consultant specializing in sports TV rights

Solutions… and complications

Last Thursday, C + won a first legal victory, the Paris Commercial Court having indicated that it was not legally required to broadcast the channels of the TF1 group. As for Arcom (ex-CSA) or the Ministry of Culture, they do not have to intervene in this strictly private dispute. For the time being, everyone is sticking to their guns, and that has reason to worry viewers who are impatiently awaiting the World Cup. The only free-to-air broadcaster of the event, TF1 will indeed broadcast 28 matches, including all those of the Blues. Certainly, solutions exist to capture the front page without going through Canal+. For example, all you have to do is connect to DTT, connect to MYTF1, use a telecom operator (Free, Orange, SFR, Bouygues), or even go to platforms such as Salto or Molotov. Rather simple for those who are used to consuming TV programs on their computer. Much less for older generations who swear by their good old remote control. And then, there are some two million French people who live in white areas, these territories which are covered neither by DTT nor by operators via fiber or ADSL. They only receive television by satellite and must therefore consider abandoning their subscription to TNTSat (managed by Canal), to subscribe to one with Fransat.

Many steps and complications in perspective, therefore. “People are attached to the satellite, which has proven its reliability over timerecalls Pierre Maes. In addition, OTT platforms (like Amazon Prime or MyCanal, Ed) often encounter technical problems when they have to broadcast major sporting events. If, in two months, everyone connects to MYTF1 to watch a France match, there could be big problems. » As a last resort, the ball buff can always subscribe to beIN Sports, which will broadcast the entire World Cup. Except that everyone is not necessarily willing to make this additional expense. “If ever the conflict persists, Canal will always be able to communicate with its subscribers by highlighting the beIN option to follow all the matches, why not with a promotional offersuggests Thierry Moreau. But those who do not want to subscribe to this new subscription, nor to embark on a technical process to change the box, will be really penalized. »

“Canal+ knows very well that a bouquet without the channels of the TF1 group is a bouquet that is missing a branch. » Thierry Moreau, former editor-in-chief of Télé 7 Jours

“A bad deal is better than a good trial”

The close calendar of the World Cup (November 20-December 18) should nevertheless encourage the two players to make a rapprochement. “The World Cup represents a good deadline because everyone has an interest in seeing the matches broadcast. Better a bad deal than a good lawsuit.” continues Thierry Moreau. “If the conflict took place in January, the balance of power would not be the sameemphasizes Pierre Maes. The fact of having the clear rights of the competition is an asset in favor of TF1, because the audiences recorded during these posters are generally enormous. » The author of the book The Football TV Rights Business. Investigation of an explosive bubble (Fyp, 2019) attempts a prognosis by advancing that “The conclusion of an agreement is very likely. Each will have to take a step towards the other. The unknown is the size of this step. » Same story on the side of Thierry Moreau: “They are not stupid, both know very well that they have every interest in getting along. TF1 cannot afford to lose even 5% of its broadcasting over the long term. Canal+ knows very well that a bouquet without the channels of the TF1 group is a bouquet that is missing a branch. TF1 wants to go up to fifteen million, Canal wants to stay at ten? Maybe they’ll top at twelve. » So, deal done?

Didier Deschamps on the 20H set of TF1 to announce his list ahead of Euro 2016.

By Raphael Brosse
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