Champions League final, on TF1 and Canal +: French viewers, not always there

Manchester City players during a training session ahead of the Champions League final.  Manchester (England), June 6, 2023.


It must have been a dream poster. Liverpool-Real Madrid in the Champions League final, in Saint Petersburg (Russia). Everything was ready, but the war in Ukraine had forced UEFA to urgently relocate the match to the Stade de France in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis). In just three months, Canal+, designated for its expertise, had to develop an ambitious system (32 cameras positioned around the pitch) for this major event broadcast in mondovision and watched by nearly 400 million viewers on average across the planet. . The serious incidents that occurred around the stadium made this Saturday, May 28, 2022 a special date, with a kick-off delayed by thirty-six minutes.

Despite this annoying delay, the technical system was up to the task. The audience also, since, between TF1 (5.9 million viewers) and Canal+ (1.06 million), this final attracted nearly 7 million viewers in France. A good surprise because, for several years, the audiences registered for a Champions League final – “sporting event of major importance” which must, as stipulated by the decree of December 22, 2004 relating to the freedom of communication, be visible on at minus one free channel – were disappointing.

The fault with an exposure not very readable on chains certainly not paying, but less identifiable by the general public than TF1. For the period 2018-2021, the exclusive holder of the broadcasting rights was the Altice group, parent company of RMC Sport.

Extremely rare presence of a French club

In 2018, the Real Madrid-Liverpool final played in kyiv was broadcast unencrypted on C8, the free channel of the Canal+ group, to which Altice had sold the rights. Result: only 3.7 million viewers. In 2019, there were only 2.5 million fans to follow Liverpool-Tottenham played in Madrid and broadcast this time on BFM-TV (another Altice channel). Same scenario for the 2021 final disputed in Porto between Manchester City and Chelsea with, as broadcaster, RMC Story: only 2.4 million followers.

Notable exception: 2020, with the extremely rare presence of a French club in the final. For the PSG-Bayern Munich poster, disputed in Lisbon, TF1, attracted by the prospect of a record audience, had bought the rights from Altice. A good calculation, with nearly 11.5 million viewers. The best audience for a Champions League final since 2004, the year of the last presence of a French club, in this case AS Monaco, whose final lost against FC Porto in Gelsenkirchen (Germany) had attracted 11 million fans on TF1.

A high audience, but which remains far from the absolute record: that of May 29, 1991 and the final between Olympique de Marseille and the Red Star of Belgrade in Bari (Italy): 17.4 million on TF1. A record still unequaled, higher than that of the final won by OM in 1993 against AC Milan in Munich: 15 million viewers. Yet the only title of European champion won to date by a French team.

For this 2023 final, with the TF1 tandem (in the clear) and Canal +, the audience should not be exceptional. Because for non-specialists, and probably wrongly, the poster between Manchester City and Inter does not make people dream in France. But above all because, once again, no French club is there.

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