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TPS RIVALS CANAL PLUS FOR SOCCER RIGHTS.

French paybox Canal Plus faces one of its biggest challenges to date with news that rival digital platform Television Par Satellite (TPS) is making a major play for French soccer rights-- one of the key elements of Canal Plus' programming.

The pay TV giant has broadcast top Gallic soccer games since 1984 and its present contract with the Ligue Nationale de Football (LNF) runs to 2001. Negotiations are currently under way for the next three-year contract.

Canal Plus pays around 800 million francs ($126 million) per year to broadcast Division One soccer games. Last week, news leaked that TPS is putting in an offer of $317 million per year, compared to a Canal Plus bid estimated to be between $253 million and $270 million.

While the LNF isn't expected to hand down a decision before the end of the month, the prospect of Canal Plus losing the prestigious soccer rights sent the group's stock plunging 8.2% on June 17. Estimates suggest that as many as 40% of Canal Plus' subscribers pay for the channel to get domestic soccer coverage.

Sources say Canal Plus execs are furious over the publication of the figures, which they suspect came from the TPS camp.

Canal Plus' nightmare scenario is that the LNF hands the rights to TPS, raising the possibility that its subscribers will transfer their loyalty to the digital platform.

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Author:Williams, Michael (British actor)
Publication:Variety
Date:Jun 21, 1999
Words:228
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