Ligue 1 plans permanent Sunday early afternoon slot for Chinese audience
The LFP, the French professional soccer league, has announced plans to introduce a permanent early Sunday afternoon kick-off slot in the new rights cycle from 2020-21 in a bid to further tap the Chinese market.
Two Ligue 1 games have been moved to the Sunday 1pm (CET) kick-off slot in the past year, and Didier Quillot, chief executive of the LFP, said the success of that experiment had encouraged the league to amend its schedule.
He told Chinese media: "We need to programme matches earlier in the day. Starting from 2020, we will have one match every Sunday to kick off at 1pm in France, as what we did with matches between Lyon and Monaco and between Nice and PSG.
"In terms of marketing, we need to have different content based on storytelling. We need to start to develop content more dedicated to the Ligue 1 region, trying to invent new way of storytelling of Ligue 1."
The changes will take effect from 2020-21 when the next commercial cycle begins with domestic rights-holders Mediapro, the Spanish sports rights agency, pay-TV's BeIN Sports and Free, the telecoms group, which have signed four-year deals worth a combined €1.153 billion ($1.29 billion) per season.
The league switched March 2018’s Nice-Paris Saint-Germain clash to 1pm so that it would draw a peak-time audience in China, and it attracted a total of 1.6 million viewers, 16 times higher than the average for a Ligue 1 fixture.
It repeated the experiment for Monaco-Lyon in November.
China has been identified as one of the LFP's three priority markets (USA and India being the others) when it comes to global expansion.
Ligue 1 opened a Beijing office in 2017, while the 2018 Trophée des Champions, the annual match between the Ligue 1 and Coupe de France winners, took place in China. The game will return to Shenzhen this year, and it has also been staged in Beijing (in 2014).
Quillot said the internationalisation project is vital to increasing the global commercial appeal of Ligue 1.
He added: "Today we are catching up with [Italy's] Serie A in terms of value and attractiveness. We need to catch up with [Germany's] Bundesliga, but it is a long journey."
Ligue 1 rights in China are held by PPTV, the online streaming service owned by Suning, the Chinese electronics retailer, and CCTV-5, the sports channel of the state broadcaster.
Late last year, Quillot told L'Equipe that the LFP was seeking to improve the terms of its international rights distribution deal with BeIN Sports, describing revenues of €70 million for the 2018-19 season as “significantly undervalued.”
Asked if the league is seeking to renegotiate the contract with BeIN, which is distributing the international rights until 2024, Quillot replied: “Since September we have been working with BeIN’s teams to increase the value of the contract, especially in areas where BeIN is a broadcaster (Middle East, North Africa). We feel that BeIN wants to strengthen its partnership with the league, so we hope to reach an agreement in a few weeks.”