* Altice to pay 350 mln euros a year for three
* Amount represents a doubling of Champions League rights
* Deal is a blow for Vivendi's Canal Plus and beIN Sports
(Adds Altice confirmation, CEO comments, analyst quote, shares
By Gwénaëlle Barzic and Mathieu Rosemain
PARIS, May 11 Altice has beaten
Vivendi's pay-TV business Canal Plus and
Qatari-controlled beIN Sports channels to the rights to
broadcast European Champions League soccer matches until 2021 in
Altice's French unit SFR Group agreed to pay 350
million euros ($381 million) per year for the rights to three
seasons starting in 2018, two sources close to the matter told
Reuters on Thursday. SFR is also getting the rights in France
for the Europa League soccer tournament, which ranks below the
main Champions League.
Vivendi shares were trading down 2.3 percent at 1215 GMT
while Altice and SFR shares were up 1.5 percent and 1.8 percent
The loss of the rights for Europe's biggest soccer
competition puts further pressure on Canal Plus in France, which
has lost many customers in the face of new competition from
Netflix and beIN Sports.
It also represents a blow for beIN Sports, which gained many
customers via its coverage of the Champions League.
Altice confirmed on Thursday that it acquired the exclusive
broadcasting rights for the Champions League in France and
non-exclusive French-language rights in Luxembourg, Switzerland
The price is double the combined sum Canal Plus and beIN
Sports paid for the 2015-2018 period, when the two companies
shared the Champions League TV rights, and highlights the
growing appetite of deep-pocketed telecom companies for
exclusive TV content.
In Britain, BT has beaten arch-rival Sky to
retain the rights to broadcast Champions League soccer matches
until 2021, agreeing to pay 1.2 billion pounds -- nearly a third
more than last time.
In France, Altice has said repeatedly it was ready
to invest heavily in its content offering to lure more customers
to its broadband and TV bundles.
"This move underlines Altice's ambition to continue to
invest in the most powerful programs that bring together the
largest audiences," Chief Executive Michel Combes said in a
SFR also bought French broadcast rights for English Premier
League soccer for the three seasons starting in 2016, paying
more than 300 million euros.
Such investments are weighing on SFR's profitability and it
remains difficult to evaluate their impact on customers'
"This is a good marketing stunt," said Thomas Coudry, an
analyst at Bryan, Garnier & Co. "On the other hand, in terms of
profitability, it's less obvious," he said.
SFR may have to either significantly expand its customer
base or increase subscription prices to make a profit out of the
newly-acquired TV rights, said Coudry, who has a "buy" rating on
Altice and "neutral" on SFR.
($1 = 0.9188 euros)
(Editing by Jean-Michel Belot and Tom Pfeiffer)