Cashing in on global appeal

As the Premier League embarks on its international rights sales, SportBusiness Intelligence, the market intelligence and consultancy arm of the SportBusiness Group, looks at how top football properties have increased their international broadcast revenue and the popularity of the various leagues around the world.

While many of Europe’s top football leagues have been making hay recently on home soil when selling their domestic audiovisual rights, their international sales departments have also been enjoying success in foreign lands.

According to research by SportBusiness Intelligence, the French Ligue 1, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and Spanish La Liga have all generated double-digit increases for their international media rights.

The Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League have also brought in similarly big rises in worldwide income.

The ever increasing popularity of European football - and the consequent competition between broadcasters worldwide to secure this must-have content - has helped all the leagues achieve these increases.

All of this bodes well for the English Premier League, one of the bellwether sports properties of the international pay-television market. The league recently began its worldwide tour of international rights sales for 2013-14 to 2015-16, starting with the Americas, after which it will move to Asia.

The last time the league went out it achieved a 107-per-cent increase. Not long after, Richard Scudamore, the league’s chief executive, predicted that the value of the league’s international rights would one day overtake the amount of revenue generated in the UK. At the time of Scudamore’s comment, this would have implied an international rights fee target of £669 million per year. But the league chief executive was speaking before telco BT Vision waded into the bidding for the domestic rights three months ago, taking their value to £1.006 billion per year. The chances of the international rights attracting more appears remote.

Bundesliga leap
Germany’s Bundesliga brought in the biggest percentage increase in revenue from its international sales, up by about 50 per cent. The efforts of DFL Sports Enterprises, the league’s commercial arm, were in large part bolstered by its first deal - a renewal for northern, central and Eastern Europe with pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport on much improved financial terms.

Ligue 1’s international revenue increased thanks to a strategic play by the Qatari based broadcaster Al Jazeera. No doubt looking to build strong relationships with the Ligue de Football Professionnel before acquiring a large package of domestic rights for the league - as well as bolster its other international broadcast ambitions, Al Jazeera acquired the international rights, offering the LFP a 45-per-cent increase in revenue.

By comparison, the Uefa Champions League, Italian Serie A and Spanish Liga achieved increases in the range of 20 per cent to 30 per cent. However, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 were starting from a much lower base in absolute terms.

The Americas - the first region to be targeted by the Premier League – have proved happy hunting grounds for European football. All the leagues in this research have brought in massive increases in revenue. The Champions League, for example, brought in a 150-per-cent increase. Competition has been ramped up in North America by Al Jazeera’s aggressive entry strategy, while Fox’s move into the Brazilian market, with the launch of Fox Sports Brasil, has helped inflate revenues in Latin America.

The Premier League will be the first major football property to really test the Asian market since Fox’s owner News Corp bought out ESPN’s half share in the pan-Asian sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports. Competition is set to be strong in a number of Asian territories, though not all, as Uefa’s sales agent Team Marketing and other right-sellers have recently found out in markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

TV Audience Analysis
As viewing figures for the 2011-12 season provided by audience data provider Eurodata TV Worldwide confirm, the Premier League is the most popular league in many of the world’s biggest markets, as shown by a survey of four different territories.

In the US, for example, the most-watched Premier League match - Chelsea v Liverpool – was watched by 1.7 million viewers on free-to-air network Fox, while La Liga’s highest audience was 296,000 for Levante v Barcelona on ESPN. The highest audience for a Premier League match on pay-television channel Fox Soccer, a fairer comparison, was 465,000 for Manchester United-Chelsea, still 60 per cent higher.

In Indonesia, one of the world’s most populous markets, the Premier League attracted 3.1 million viewers for the early season Man Utd v Man City clash, over a million and a half more viewers than a Barcelona v Real Madrid match.

In South Africa, the most-watched Premier League match attracted 42 per cent more viewers than the top Liga match. In Australia, the German Bundesliga was second to the Premier League although the Bayer Leverkusen v Stuttgart match was shown on One HD, a free-to air digital channel, unlike the Premier League and La Liga which were shown on pay-channels.


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