Turkcell, the Turkish mobile telecoms operator, has acquired the exclusive media rights for the English Premier League in Turkey for the period 2016 to 2019. Turkcell - the largest mobile operator in Turkey - became the sole broadcaster for the rights following a sublicensing agreement with Saran Media Agency which acquired the rights in January.
Turkcell and Saran Media Agency did not release financial information on the agreement. Turkcell will offer matches via its Turkcell TV Plus IPTV and OTT (fixed and mobile) platforms. Having seen strong growth in its TV services, Turkcell is now expected to bid for the rights to the Süper Lig, Turkey's domestic football league.
The acquisition of the Premier League rights steps up Turkcell’s involvement in the TV business in Turkey. It marks the first time that the Turkish telco has entered the sports rights market, let alone the premium sports rights market. Up to now, Turkcell TV Plus offered no premium entertainment or sports content. Turkcell TV Plus offers a total of six packages, including a Cinema TV pack and MUBI Film pack), but the telco does not control any first window rights for movies or foreign TV series.
According to IHS Markit Technology data, Turkcell had 34 million mobile customers at the end of 2015, representing a market share of 46.47%. In October 2014 it launched its TV offer, branded as Turkcell TV Plus. This move has paid off as it has managed to almost quadruple subscriber numbers from 60,000 in 2014 to 224,000 in 2015. At the end of 2015, around 150,000 of these were primary IPTV subscribers while another 74,000 IPTV customers also subscribe to another pay TV operator (mainly Digitürk). Its OTT service, called also Turkcell TV Plus, has been even more successful so far, having managed to attract 411,000 subscribers by Q1 2016. A precondition for access to the OTT service is to be a Turkcell Superonline subscriber (either ADSL or Fiber) or a Turkcell 4G subscriber. The OTT service is accessible in Turkey via Apple & Android smart-phones & tablets, PCs, Laptops and a range of connected TVs (Samsung, Grundig, LG, Beko, Vestel).
Turkcell’s strategy is to enrich its TV proposition further, and IHS Markit expects the telco to bid aggressively in the forthcoming tender for the media rights of the Süper Lig (Turkey’s football league). The current rights holder is Digitürk but its contract period expires at the end of the 2016-17 football season and a new tender is expected to be launched in the coming months. For Turkcell, football would be an ideal way of leveraging its €1.62 billion investment in acquiring 172 MHz of spectrum. Turkcell has already started rolling out a 4.5G LTE network across Turkey, providing mobile broadband with speeds of up to 375 Mbit/s, and has experimented with broadcasting sports content via its mobile network, delivering HD video streams of a basketball match over its LTE network in May this year.
Turkcell is following the steps of the other big telco in the country, Turk Telekom, which has exploited sports content as a strategic asset in order to boost its bundled service. Turk Telekom has managed to reverse a downward trend in its IPTV subscribers’ figures, from 308,000 in Q1 2014 to 282,000 in Q1 2015, by acquiring the rights for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League for the period 2015 to 2018. Turk Telekom’s IPTV subscribers at Q1 2016 stood at 351,000, a 25% rise year-on-year.
Reports in the Turkish media indicate that Turk Telekom is also expected to bid for acquiring the rights for Turkish football. However, both telcos will face tough competition from Digitürk, which has been acquired by the Qatari-based BeIn Media Group. The current value of the Süper Lig rights stands at €406 million per year.