Digital sports media specialist Perform is to distribute live and on demand highlights of the 2012/13 Bundesliga season in Italy in partnership with the German Football League (DFL). The deal with DFL Sports Enterprises, the worldwide sales and distribution arm of the DFL, will see one live match per week streamed free, starting with Bayern Munich's match at Werder Bremen on 29 September at 15.30 CE. The DFL had tried without success to renew an agreement with pay TV platform Sky Italia.
The live stream will be available across Perform's own football website Goal.com and on leading news publishers' websites and sports portals. Perform will also make available the video-on-demand highlights through its e-player platform, which the company says reaches eight million fans in Italy through publishing and portal partners, and the company's Livesport.tv app on connected LG and Toshiba TVs. Perform will sell advertising and sponsorship around the live and on demand Bundesliga matches in Italy, although no financial terms were revealed.
Although the partners have positioned the deal as a pilot project in the field of rights distribution, the deal was driven by the failure of the DFL to renew its deal with Sky Italia. With over ten per cent of the Bundesliga season already completed, the DFL has acted to give their fans in the Italian market the remainder of the season on a new platform.
The DFL is keen to match the rights values of other major leagues - the most recent Bundesliga domestic rights sold for €486m a season compared to the English Premier League's £1bn (roughly €1.25bn) a season. The Premier League, La Liga and Serie A are seen as more popular in international markets, and with only two Italian players registered in the Bundesliga, demand is limited within Italy.
However, Perform does have a history of stepping in when traditional TV deals collapse or do not materialise. In November and December 2008 the company streamed Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs' away matches in the UEFA cup on a pay-per-view basis on the clubs' own websites. The following year, the company live streamed, also on a PPV basis, the Ukraine v England World Cup Qualifier after Setanta UK collapsed and no traditional broadcaster made an offer to broadcast the match.
The deal will allow Perform to leverage the large fan base they have in Italy. The company will use their existing relationships with partners such as La Repubblica and il Giorno and its own proprietary sports portal, Goal.com. Perform claims Goal.com, acquired in February 2011, now reaches 1.6m fans per month in Italy, providing the Bundesliga with a significant number of football fans to see their match with no additional payment required.
However, IHS Screen Digest does not believe that this is the turning point of sports rights being sold to online services rather than traditional broadcasters. Pure-play OTT distribution services have yet to overcome a number of hurdles which place them at a disadvantage versus traditional broadcast methods. These include lower quality video, which is dependent on the users' broadband speeds, as well as higher costs for the service provider itself for content delivery when there are a large number of viewers.