Vivendi: Has the Beautiful Game Just Turned Ugly for French Giant?

Neymar JR celebratesParis Saint-Germain v Olympique
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Today in Variety’s International Newswire, it’s all about soccer, with Vivendi losing French Premier League soccer rights, while Zidane’s resignation as Real Madrid manager may just make Spain’s LaLiga rights all the more attractive; in the fast contracting non-soccer universe, as the World Cup approaches, Netflix turns the screws on rivals in Brazil with a top company commission; Mexico’s Dopamine signals new hires 

Has Vivendi just scored a massive own goal? In what analyst François Godard, at Enders Analysis, describes as “the biggest shock to the French broadcasting system in a generation,” Spain’s Mediapro outbid Vivendi subsidiary Canal Plus, Europe’s second-biggest pay-TV player, for rights to French Premier League soccer matches for 2020-24. On Wednesday, the day after the auction, Vivendi stock plunged 3.64% by market close. It clawed back 0.56% by mid-morning Thursday, but analyst sentiment looks to be that Canal Plus now has a problem. The only question is how large. Mediapro bought rights to eight exclusive matches a play day, plus highlights of other games.

The Spanish holding company announced Wednesday night that it was intending to create its own 24/7 soccer channel in France, to be offered wholesale to all of the country’s premium-TV operators.

Canal Plus can now attempt to sub-license the rights or the channel from Mediapro. Indeed, with Canal Plus still by far France’s biggest pay-TV system, Mediapro needs Canal Plus just as much as Canal Plus needs Mediapro’s French soccer rights. Those negotiations might well go down to the wire in 2020, however. Or, if Mediapro can’t find buyers, it could walk away from the deal, as it seems to have done earlier this week in Italy, whose league authorities were demanding far steeper bank guarantees than seems to be the case in France. Again, that would take time to happen.

Soccer, with movies and now series, was Canal Plus’ main churn reducer. For the meantime, Canal Plus’ loss of French Premier League rights “sends a very disturbing signal to subscribers and to the whole business regardless of whether it will actually end up with Premier League games in 2020,” said Godard. Mediapro, in contrast, looks to be sitting pretty.

Netflix Turns Up the Volume in Brazil with Gullane’s ‘Nobody is Looking’ 

These days in Brazil, it’s hard to hire a decent TV crew as Netflix   turns up the volume on original Brazilian series production, where it has seen considerable success. Low-fi sci-fi thriller “3%,” produced for Netflix by Sao Paolo’s Boutique Filmes, is cited by the streaming giant as an exemplary hit in and outside Brazil. In the latest move, Gullane is set to produce Netflix’s newest original series, “Nobody is Looking,” a dramedy about the human condition, in which a guardian angel rebels against his boss’ orders. Academy Award-nominated editor Daniel Rezende (“City of God,” “Tree of Life”) directs. The order is a feather in the cap for Gullane, with o2 Filmes Brazil’s biggest film-TV producer, which punched huge ratings on Globo this year with “Jailers,” a 2017 MipDrama Screenings winner, and introduced at Cannes one of Brazil’s hottest movies, Fernando Coimbra’s upcoming “The Hanged.” “Nobody is Looking” also marks Netflix’s twelfth (sic) Brazilian original production, counting drama series, comedy specials, docs and movies. To date, established players have been able to outproduce Netflix: think Telefonica’s Movistar + in Spain. But Netflix’s commitment to local production in some markets is getting very serious indeed, and galvanizing the TV scene.

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Dopamine Fills Our Executive Roster

Dopamine, the high-end production label of Mexico’s Grupo Salinas, owner of TV Azteca, has announced two new executives: Susan Rivera – chief market intelligence officer, and Fernando Paredes – CFO. Rivera has nearly two decades of experience at major Mexican broadcasters like TV Azteca and Fox Latin America, while Paredes is a Grupo Salinas veteran, having held multiple high-level positions in the areas of strategic planning, finance and budgeting. Earlier this month, the company also announced the additions of Amaya Muruzábal – chief content office, Gabriela Valentán – head of production, and Miguel Ángel Oliva – chief marketing officer.

Zidane Leaves Real Madrid: La Liga Rights Appreciate?

Shock, horror, amazement. Zinedine Zidane resigned Thursday morning as manager of Real Madrid, less than a week after it won the European Champions’ League for the fourth time in five years. But what’s that got to do with film and TV? Actually, quite a lot. On Monday May 28, Spain’s LaLiga invited bids for new Spanish soccer league rights over 2019-22. Spain’s main premium TV operators – Telefonica’s Movistar +, Vodafone and Orange – have spent months disparaging sports rights’ cost/return ratios, compared to those for original series, their own or third parties’, such as Netflix’s. None may bid for the new European Champions’ League rights. But Movistar + at least still needs Spain’s soccer league rights. With Zidane out of the picture, 2018-19’s soccer league has just got even more tantalizingly interesting. Just how much Movistar + may lose, one way or another, paying for Liga rights really matters, just as Canal Plus’ financial health in France. Both now rate as the biggest drivers of their countries’ movie-drama series industries. Zidane’s exit has a potential butterfly effect across the whole system.

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