Sportel, held on 23-26 October in Monaco, is one of the major markets for buyers and sellers of sports rights. The convention brought together 3,045 participants and 1,048 companies from 78 countries.
The first conference was about the new cycle deals for UEFA’s Champions and Europa Leagues. Guy-Laurent Epstein, marketing director of UEFA, said that the 2018-2022 rights for the competitions would generate over €2 billion in revenue. He said that broadcasters are asking for more exclusive and premium content to show, which will lead to increasing their price. As a new buyer of UEFA rights in France, Altice’s head of sports rights acquisition, Nicolas Rotkoff, was anticipating new customers coming to its platform. The number of SFR Sport channels will temporarily increase to six in order to show more events live simultaneously. Rotkoff said that Altice had bought premium content for an undervalued product. He also said that the group would air one game from the Europa League and highlights of the Champions League free-to-air.
Pay TV remains crucial to the sports rights market, but more rights holders are opting to go direct-to-consumer. Just before the event, Formula 1 (now owned by Liberty Media) said that next year it plans to launch its own online streaming service. The service will not conflict with existing rights deals the motor racing event has in place (in the UK with Sky for example).
Several other rights holders discussed the launch of online services.
- Epstein said UEFA is also thinking of exploiting non premium rights online
- France’s Ligue 1 is digitalising its catalogue and wants to launch an OTT service in the future with re-runs of archive matches. The next cycle for rights, starting in December or January, may include an international OTT package. At the moment only domestic rights are available on demand via the BeIn Ligue 1 application
- Bundesliga prefers to grow its brands. The German league argues that broadcasters have greater marketing power than they do
- Formula E has made a deal with Eurosport to broadcast the season starting in December 2017 throughout Europe. The event trusts aggregators to deliver a better audience and the awareness to promote it
- Extreme decided to stop its linear channel and it will become an ad-supported online only video on-demand service before then end of the year. Extreme owns 95% of its content and an experiment online racked up more than 100 million of views on all platforms
Another conference session featured DAZN (owned by Perform Group) and Sportsfix. Both are online channels/ services trying to make their mark in Asia. DAZN CEO John Gleasure said its research indicated that the company is more likely to retain a subscriber if they watch content on a large screen (rather to mobile) in the first days of their subscription. On the other hand, Sportsfix CEO Marcus Luer firmly believes in mobile and mobility, with Asia the world’s biggest mobile market and the one which is growing fastest. The global smartphone installed base market doubled in the last four years to 4,767 million by the end of 2017. Asia accounts for more than 52% of the market and will grow by 42% in the next four years (source IHS Markit).Sportsfix uses a pre-paid model to sell daily, weekly and monthly plans in countries where budgets and available incomes are not big. DAZN for its part is growing in Japan and Canada and will launch in two more countries soon.