THE CHANGING NATURE of the sports media industry in Brazil is perhaps best exemplified by the recent developments surrounding the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, the top tier of football in the country.
Earlier this year, the monopoly of the seemingly omnipotent media company, Globo, was challenged when sports broadcaster Esporte Interativo tabled an ambitious bid for rights to the competition. It is indicative of the gradual move towards a more level playing field in the country.
“There is more competition now compared to five years ago,” explains Felipe Aquilino, director of international sports media rights at Turner Broadcasting System, which owns Esporte Interativo.
“There are five sports networks in Brazil with 12 different sports channels, all backed by solid media groups: Esporte Interativo (Turner), ESPN (Disney), Fox Sports (Fox), SporTV (Globo) and Bandsports (Band), which is important for the sector, as it challenges the players to deliver not only the competitions, but also the best content and coverage to the fans.”
In February, Esporte Interativo announced that it had submitted an offer of R550m (€151.6m/$167.6m) per year to land pay-television rights to the Série A. The deal covers the period from 2019 to 2024 and the broadcaster has already received the backing of a host of topflight clubs.
Série A clubs sell their media rights individually and so have been faced with a direct choice between Esporte Interativo and Globo, which currently holds the pay-television and free-to-air rights through to the 2018 season.
At the time of writing, Palmeiras is the only Série A club yet to have agreed a deal with either broadcaster. Globo has agreed deals with 11 Série A clubs, including, importantly, Brazil’s three most-supported teams – Santos, Flamengo and São Paulo. Globo remains a powerhouse, but Esporte Interativo’s move represents a changing of the tide. The increased demand for competitions such as the Série A has led to improved coverage of events, according to Carlos Maluf, acquisition director at pay-television broadcaster ESPN Brazil.
“There is growing competition from sports entities in this market for rights, distribution, advertising sales and viewership,” Maluf tells SportBusiness International. “The value of rights for some of the most coveted leagues and sports in Brazil is increasing, along with the demand for sports content, which has resulted in ratings growth on all ESPN platforms.
“The key is to offer great events, a wide variety of sports and leagues, supported by expert, qualified, on-air journalists. Another key is to have top-notch and trusted journalism coverage, one of the qualities that ESPN is recognised for all over the world.”
ESPN Brazil also holds rights to a number of other football properties, including the English Premier League, the Spanish LaLiga, the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A, North America’s Major League Soccer, the Uefa Europa League and also national team tournaments. Such an extensive and diverse portfolio of rights has seen ESPN Brazil reap the rewards.
“Despite increasing competition, ESPN Brazil garnered great ratings growth in 2015, achieving its best numbers of the past seven years,” Maluf says. “In this currently increased competitive scenario it is time to reanalyse our acquisitions and focus our strategies on a variety of platforms, considering that fans are consuming sports content on digital platforms more than ever, in addition to linear television consumption.”
Along with football, NFL American football and NBA basketball are popular in Brazil. ESPN will continue to be the home of NFL in the country for the upcoming season, while Globoowned pay-television broadcaster Globosat agreed a multi-year rights deal with the NBA in February 2015. The deal complemented agreements the NBA already had in place with ESPN, Space e Sports Plus and Sky.
Last November, Globosat expanded its agreement with the league to launch a new Brazil specific web portal, which will serve as a hub for NBA coverage in the country and provide access to NBA League Pass, the league’s out-of-market live game service. In line with this, Maluf feels it is vital for Brazilian broadcasters to embrace new media.
“According to recent research, sports fans are consuming content on multiple platforms,” he says. “People want to have the latest news about their teams and favourite leagues, wherever they are – work, school or any place outside the home
“This is why we have been growing fan engagement with ESPN via WatchESPN, ESPN.combr, plus our social media presence like Mundo ESPN on Facebook. Sports are special, because they are so emotionally visceral and because of the unexpected outcomes that happen with live content.
Aquilino concurs and points to the increasing level of importance that broadcasters are placing on digital and social media, and on-demand services.
“The sports networks are, more and more, focusing on their fans’ needs and engagement to deliver a better product,” he says. “The channels are developing their TV-everywhere services and OTTs, as the fans want to watch the events independently where they are.
“Each sports channel is approaching the fan in a different way – be it with language, events, casting or programmes – and in a more interactive way. There will be more integration with social networks and digital platforms. There will also be more proximity with athletes, clubs and federations.” The upcoming Olympic Games in Rio will provide Brazilian broadcasters with a host of potential new sports markets to exploit.
Moreover, consumers will be exposed to Brazilian athletes they had previously been unaware of, as Aquilino points out. “I believe the main impact (the Games will have) is the higher interest for other types of sports besides football, as well as the proximity with Brazilian sports athletes that were not in the spotlight before,” he says.
Maluf agrees: “The Olympic Games in Rio will be a great opportunity for fans to get to know less mainstream sports better, some of which ESPN already airs throughout the year.”
Going forward, Aquilino feels it is essential for broadcasters to continue to diversify and embrace new media in order to remain competitive. He also stresses the need for companies to be aware of consumers’ everchanging viewing habits.
“Challenges include: competition and value of sports properties; developing talent and searching for content other than sports competitions; transitioning from TV to digital; better use of TV-everywhere services and OTTs; and understanding the new consumers of sports,” he says.
“Among the opportunities are: developing different ways of broadcasting sports events focusing on new sports; and being aware of new types of sports content, such as esports.”
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