While sports broadcast rights have been making headlines recently in the U.S., another battle has been waged on the soccer fields of France. France’s leading pay-TV operator Canal Plus, traditionally the destination for soccer in France, has been under siege of late from newcomer Al Jazeera Sport, but today the group finally scored a goal with the UEFA Champions League. Canal announced this evening in Paris that it’s won the rights to the top pick of games for the 2012-2015 soccer season, including the finale, for a total of 13 games. The news is of special interest given the full-frontal charge the group has been facing from Al Jazeera, but also because the rights for these particular big-ticket games generally go to the nation’s leading free web TF1. A Canal Plus spokesman tells Deadline that TF1 was in the bidding for this round, but he was unaware if Al Jazeera had also put in an offer.
In a deal announced earlier this week, Al-Jazeera Sport was awarded a rights package that gave it the bulk of Champions League games for the 2012-2015 seasons. Some reports put that deal at as much as 180 million euros, which would be double Canal’s presumed bid. (For the uninitiated, the UEFA Champions League traditionally includes such high-profile soccer clubs as Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United.) Al-Jazeera Sport, which for the moment does not have a channel on French television, also has Champions League rights in the Middle East and in North Africa. Al Jazeera Sport is expected to launch on all available platforms in France sometime before July.