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French rugby's blockbuster TV deal leaves rival leagues in the dust

By Ian Cameron
Clermont's Argentine flanker Marcos Kremer (C) celebrates with teamates during the French Top14 rugby union match between ASM Clermont Auvergne and Castres Olympique at the Marcel-Michelin Stadium in Clermont-Ferrand, central France on May 18, 2024. (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE/AFP via Getty Images)

New figures reveal that the French Top 14 is set to significantly widen the revenue gap with other domestic rugby competitions-  thanks to a lucrative new TV broadcast deal.

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Canal+ has secured the broadcast rights for both the Top 14 and Pro D2 from 2027 to 2032, paying €696.8 million for the privilege.

According to numbers reported from SportsPro Media and the LNR – this equates to an annual payment of €128.7 million for the Top 14, marking a 13.3 per cent increase compared to the previous agreement.

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When divided out across the clubs, it will mean for every euro of TV revenue a Premiership club gets, a French Top 14 side will get roughly €2.50.

Canal+ has been the broadcaster for French top-flight rugby since 1998. The partnership has seen the Top 14 grow into unequivocally the most commercially successful domestic rugby competition in the world.

The Pro D2 – France’s second-tier rugby league – will also see a substantial increase in its broadcast revenue, with Canal+ committing €10.7 million annually, up 36 per cent from the previous deal. This cements Pro D2’s status as the most lucrative second-tier competition in the sport by some distance.

The new deal ensures that Canal+ will continue to broadcast Top 14 matches for at least the next eight years.

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The significant financial boost from this deal places the Top 14 well ahead of the URC and Gallagher Premiership broadcast revenue.

“French rugby has been one of the pillars of Canal+’s sports offering,” said Maxime Saada, Canal+ Group chairman. “Because it has always been there for us, we will always be here for French rugby. We thank the LNR and president René Bouscatel for the renewed confidence they have placed in us.”

The Top 14’s annual broadcast revenue of $151.2 million far exceeds that of Super Rugby Pacific ($81.2 million), United Rugby Championship (URC) ($70 million) and Premiership Rugby ($42.9 million).

For the URC and particularly the Gallagher Premiership, the challenge now is to find ways to compete financially with the Top 14. The disparity is likely to impact the competitive landscape of professional rugby, not least in terms of competition for the world’s best rugby union stars.

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The French league’s broadcast revenue already allows its clubs to lure and retain some of the best rugby talent worldwide. The fresh increase will mean both the Premiership – and to a lesser extent the URC – will struggle to compete in terms of the financial packages they
can offer top talent; potentially leading to an increased talent drain towards French clubs.

The last two seasons have already proved difficult for the Gallagher Premiership – who las season lost Wasps, Worcester and London Irish. The league has also lost – or is set to lose – the likes of Henry Arundell, Courtney Lawes, Owen Farrell, Jack Willis, Sam Simmonds, Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph to French clubs and an even more lopsided TV deal landscape will only accelerate that further.

This comes as the French broadcaster bolsters its rugby rights portfolio after announcing it will not bid for the domestic rights to Ligue 1 soccer – a deal valued at €330 million per year – which expires at the end of the 2023/24 season.

Canal+ also holds broadcasting rights for English soccer’s Premier League and UEFA club competitions.

“The success of this call for tenders is the result of several years of construction and strong political choices to make the TOP 14 the benchmark championship for world rugby,” said René Bouscatel, President of the LNR. “The progression of PRO D2 rights is also a sign of the dynamic development of this championship. The commitment of the LNR and the clubs to support training, modernize the stadiums, offer a high-level, united competition, with suspense throughout the season ending with the major event of the final stages, continues to bear fruit. This allocation will benefit all of French rugby: the TOP 14, PRO D2, amateur rugby, the training sector and the French XV.”

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Comments

1 Comment
J
Jon 30 days ago

That sounds like it will be matchings aussies league and AFL deals. Thats pretty big!

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