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Amazon Pushes More Into Top-Tier Sports With French Soccer

Amazon.com Inc. secured broadcast rights to most of France’s biggest soccer competition, prompting local pay-TV giant Canal + to walk away from the league.

France’s LFP soccer body awarded more than 300 top-flight Ligue 1 games to Amazon and 76 to Canal+ on Friday after the previous rights holder, Spain’s Mediapro ended its contract early.

Canal+ said it “regretted the LFP’s decision to choose Amazon’s proposal to the detriment of its historic partners Canal+ and BeIn Sports” and said it would no longer show league matches. That leaves a financing hole to fill for the French soccer authorities, since Canal+ was due to show some of the most-watched, expensive games.

The award is the latest signal that Amazon is ready to bid for some of the most expensive sports rights to boost demand for its Prime Video platform. Amazon agreed to pay about 275 million euros ($333 million) a year for the matches it has secured, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

That’s a fraction of the sum Mediapro agreed to pay for the package before it handed the rights back, and is less than what Canal+ was paying for the rights to the 20% of top games it’s sub-licensing from BeIN. Amazon declined to comment on how much it paid. Mediapro’s deal to broadcast about 80% of the top French soccer games was valued at about 800 million euros annually, according to media reports.

The Amazon deal “signals a new era for Ligue 1 as its matches are distributed on a digital streaming service for the very first time,” the e-commerce giant said in a statement. The Amazon Prime subscription service, which includes the Prime Video streaming platform, counts more than 200 million members worldwide. The Seattle-based company has already secured select games in England’s Premier League and pushed deeper into sports coverage in the U.S., acquiring rights to NFL games.

A spokeswoman for Vivendi SE’s Canal+ declined to say more about the company’s decision to relinquish its rights.

French soccer authorities have been desperate to inject fresh funds into the country’s struggling clubs and ensure local fans can continue to watch their domestic league featuring global stars such as Neymar da Silva Santos and Kylian Mbappe.