The French antitrust regulator has rejected a proposed sports distribution tie-up between beIN Sports and Vivendi’s Canal Plus.
The decision represents a major setback to Vivendi, which has touted the five-year agreement with BeIN as one of the key elements of its strategy to turn around Canal Plus’ growing losses by 2018.
The board ruled that the deal would give Canal Plus and beIN control of 80% of sports broadcasting rights in France. That would harm competition, adversely affect financing of sporting events and threaten Internet service providers.
“This project to ally, of which we don’t know everything, contained a risk of collusion in sports rights, as the two actors would have held 80% of sports right, and the football league was worried,” Antitrust Chief Bruno Lasserre said.
“An agreement couldn’t be found for concessions that would have limited competition risks. We preferred to say no,” he added.
Vivendi had described the deal as an essential part of its strategy to stem losses at its struggling French pay TV channels which have been losing money for the last four years.
BeIN Sports entered the French market in 2012, spending millions of Euros scooping up live sports rights including the UEFA Champions League and French Ligue 1 soccer games and quickly becoming a formidable competitor to Canal Plus.
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