Just over a year ago the Spanish sports media industry underwent a seismic shift at the heart of its biggest property when a Royal Decree was passed in order to pave the way for the introduction of the collective selling of Spanish domestic football rights.
Having been enshrined in law, full-scale collective selling was introduced to coincide with the start of the 2016-17 season, before being brought forward to include the 2015- 16 campaign. The rights were acquired by Telefónica in a single-season deal due to concerns from the Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y La Competencia, Spain’s competition regulator, that the telecommunications company’s existing club deals covering the campaign could complicate the process.
Telefónica paid €600m for pay-television rights for the season, with public-service broadcaster TVE securing a €25m deal for a package of live free-to-air rights.
However, the deals for the equivalent rights, starting with the upcoming 2016-17 campaign, illustrate the true impact of the move to a centralised system.
LaLiga, the body established to operate the top-tier Liga, second-tier Segunda División and Copa del Rey knockout competition, will earn at least €1.04bn per season over the next three years through deals with pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports, telcos Telefónica, Vodafone and Orange, and the Mediapro agency, which unveiled new free-to-air sports channel Gol in June.
In January, Telefónica’s DTS unit agreed to pay Mediapro €2.4bn ($2.6bn) to carry the new beIN Sports LaLiga channel on an exclusive basis for three seasons, from 2016-17 to 2018- 19. Following complaints by rivals, Vodafone and Orange also secured carriage deals for the channel in April. As part of the merry-go-round, in the same month Eurosport sealed a carriage partnership with Vodafone in Spain.
— TV Sports Markets (@TVSportsMarkets) June 30, 2016
Part of the reason for the clamour for a change from the club-by-club rights-sales process, which was introduced in the 1997-98 season, was that it had created a lopsided competition, with Real Madrid and Barcelona at one time earning 12 times as much in media-rights revenues as the smallest club in the top division. While rights income is protected for the big two, some of the country’s smaller clubs saw their media-related income increase by more than 500 per cent last season alone, promising a more stable and competitive competition.
One representative of a leading agency that operates in Spain says that the impact of collective LaLiga media-rights selling on the wider sports media sector in Spain has been significant.
“This has affected the whole sports media landscape, especially the likes of Telefónica, which has spent a lot of money on the beIN Sports LaLiga carriage deal as well as LaLiga rights,” he says.
However, he argues that further legislative change may be required in order for the industry to take the next necessary step to increase the Spanish pay-television market to a subscriber base of between six and seven million customers.
“We would need to change the listed events law so that there is a very limited amount of sport on free-to-air television,” he adds. “A few years ago it was crazy how many sports were on free-to-air. Outside of football, there have been good increases in the likes of MotoGP, Formula One, tennis and basketball, also because of the growth of pay-television.”
However, even though LaLiga was falling in line with a model that has been successfully adopted in every other major football league in Europe and the shift to a centralised approach has undoubtedly boosted the coffers of the league and its clubs, its introduction was far from easy.
The process of approving and then implementing the new rights-sales model was carried out against a backdrop of strike threats, litigious posturing and insults that have become typical in a country that has lurched from one ‘soccer war’ to another in recent times.
However, it is hoped now that with a more straightforward process adopted for the country’s No.1 sports property, a more collaborative approach will be encouraged in a more stable setting.
“The disputes have affected the growth of Spain’s sports media sector a lot,” the agency executive adds. “Pay-television would have grown more effectively if all parties had worked together, but now things are much more organised and everyone has clear plans, strategies and targets.”
Oscar Ugaz, a marketing consultant who has worked with properties like Real Madrid, says: “There aren’t big numbers on pay-television at the moment, but OTT offerings are starting to appear in Spain.
“People in Spain are not really used to paying for content. It is quite a traditional structure and Spain is lagging a little behind some other countries.”
Oliver Seibert, the director of media and new business at Mediapro, says that the inevitable increase in competition in the Spanish paytelevision sector will benefit consumers in years to come.
“With platforms now able to offer LaLiga for three years, consumers know what to expect and the prices will be competitive,” he tells SportBusiness International.
“There needs to be growth in the paytelevision market so that it will bring people in from watching games in bars, but we need to wait for a year or two to see what sort of change there will be.”
Spain’s advertising market slumped during the global economic crisis – another key reason to develop the country’s pay-television sector, according to Seibert.
“There has been a small recovery in advertising – it fell by 60 per cent and it has maybe come back by 10 per cent – but it all comes back to pay-television penetration and that is where the challenge lies,” he says.
However, with telecommunications companies driving competition in the sector, different platforms on the periphery are likely to play a big role in the coming years.
According to Ugaz, platforms such as YouTube, Amazon and Netflix will “disrupt the classical TV offering.”
He adds: “In the future, people are going to consume sport indifferent ways, but in Spain the advertising business is not prepared for this. There is a big opportunity, but a danger of it being an opportunity lost.”
SPORTS MEDIA CONSUMPTION
Percentage of general population who watched sport via television or digital media in the past year:
- Total 79.5%
- Men 89.9%
- Women 69.6%
- 15-19 years old 87.4%
- 20-24 years old 86%
- 25-34 years old 82.5%
- 35-44 years old 82%
- 45-54 years old 82%
- 55-64 years old 78.7%
- 65-74 years old 74%
- 75 years old and over 64.7%
Percentage of general population who watched a particular sport on television or digital media last year:
- Football 71.5%
- Motor racing 40.9%
- Tennis 39.4%
- Motorcycling 36.7%
- Basketball 36.3%
- Cycling 30.8%
- Swimming 19.2%
- Athletics 17.7%
- Handball 15.4%
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Gains in Spain – An introduction to Spain
Sports Marketing – A detailed look at Spanish sports marketing
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