CHILE HAS A RELATIVELY small population in comparison with some of its Latin American neighbours, but about 78 per cent of them – or 14 million – are online, according to IWS.
The number of those online has doubled in the past eight years and in terms of both broadband penetration and broadband speed, Chile ranks second in Latin and Central America after Uruguay.
Although a number of operators compete in the broadband sector, Movistar is the market leader, followed by VTR Globalcom and Claro. The relatively high broadband penetration, coupled with solid GDP growth, has provided an opportunity for progressive telecommunications and media companies.
In April free-to-air state broadcaster TVN, which showed highlights of football’s top two divisions in the country and the Copa Chile cup competition from 2013 to 2015, confirmed the launch of a new over-the-top subscription videoon- demand service.
In June international media and entertainment company Discovery Communications, the parent company of international sports broadcaster Eurosport, announced the acquisition of a 27.5-per-cent stake in Bethia Communications, the parent company of Chilean broadcaster Mega. The deal marked the media company’s first strategic investment in a free-to-air channel in Latin America.
However, the country’s pay-television market is one of the most mature in the region, with penetration ranking third in Latin America after Argentina and Uruguay. By the middle of last year, more than half of all households had subscriptions to pay-television services.
Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, having already launched a satellite broadband service and expanded its videostreaming capabilities, announced in June that its Movistar Play video-on-demand service in Chile would incorporate live programming from sports broadcaster ESPN, which already has five channels in the country.
ESPN acquired rights across Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, including Chile, for the 2014 winter Olympics and the 2016 summer Games in a deal with América Móvil, the Mexican telco owned by multi-billionaire Carlos Slim.
“People like to watch sports a lot in the media in Chile, especially on television, and that is why there is daily coverage available, for example during the Olympic Games,” Jorge Silva Borquez, a sports industry consultant with a specialist knowledge of Chile, tells SportBusiness International. “The same happened with the Pan American Games in Toronto last year and the South American Games in Santiago last year, when there was also a record attendance in the stands.”
Chile has also proved itself as an innovator in the media sector. The International Olympic Committee’s launch of the Olympic Channel at the close of the Rio 2016 summer Olympic Games generated plenty of interest. However, Chile has had its own Olympic sports channel, CDO, since 2011.
The channel is 49-per-cent owned by the Chilean Olympic Committee, with private investors controlling the remaining 51 per cent, and broadcasts various sports 24 hours per day. The channel shows multi-sports events, including the South American Games.
“We have to look at how media get involved in sport, especially television, because this is the key way to attract more brands and sponsors,” Borquez says.
“CDO, for example, is making an effort to attract more sponsors to sports other than football. If more sponsors can invest in sport, this will bring more events to the country. Football, though, always attracts the highest ratings – particularly the national team.”
Coverage of football in Chile was transformed by the launch in 2003 of Canal del Fútbol, a broadcaster that is majority-owned by the country’s football association, the ANFP.
Canal del Fútbol, which has exclusive rights to domestic football in the country, distributed $60m (€53m) to its clubs in 2014 – five times more than they received in 2009, demonstrating a steady increase in the value of the league and its clubs.
Late last year a bidding war emerged to acquire Canal del Fútbol, with Fox Sports, ESPN and beIN Media Group reportedly submitting offers. With any final deal reliant on approval from the ANFP’s member clubs, the future of the broadcaster remains up in the air.
“Canal del Fútbol is one of the principal sources of income for clubs,” Borquez adds. “However, the government has to invest more in sports in the long term. Brands looking to invest in Chile could increase awareness by associating with events featuring universities and amateur athletes in sports such as running and cycling.”
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