Profitability recorded for Eleven Sports in Belgium

Romelu Lukaku (r) with Danilo D'Ambrosio of Inter Milan during Serie A match vs Lazio on September 25, 2019 (Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images)

The Belgian operation of pay-TV broadcaster Eleven Sports has, for the first time, reported positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda), after launching in the country in 2015.

The broadcaster has reported positive EBITDA of “a few million”, according to L’Echo newspaper and on the back of €20m ($21.5m) in turnover in the year ending June 30.

During the 2017-18 period, Eleven Sports’ Belgian arm is reported to have posted a €2.37m loss and revenues of €15.6m.

Guillaume Collard, Eleven Sports’ managing director in Belgium and Luxembourg, told L’Echo: “Our value chain is very short – we buy rights, we produce the channels and distribute them everywhere in a non-exclusive way because we are totally agnostic in terms of platform.”

He continued: “We offer three non-exclusive channels to all platforms, making life easier for the fan. We save the operators from having to buy the rights, which allows them to reduce their costs and increase their margins. And we are also very present in the digital world.”

Eleven Sports’ operation in Belgium derives the lion’s share of its revenues from the non-exclusive carriage agreements, with leading telcos Proximus, Telenet, Voo, Orange and SFR all signed up, plus digital satellite operators TV Vlaanderen and as Télésat.

Revenues are also generated through direct OTT subscriptions, with the channels priced at €8 per month, or a one-off payment of €80 per year.

Along with rights to the Bundesliga, LaLiga and Serie A, the service also holds rights to the EFL Cup, Uefa Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifiers, NBA, NFL and UFC.

Eleven Sports launched two channels in the country in August 2015 on Proximus’ platform and introduced its OTT service later that year. A third channel was added in 2017 given the broadcaster’s increasing sports rights portfolio.

The Aser Media-owned broadcaster failed with its bid for exclusive rights to Belgian football’s Jupiler Pro League two and a half years ago. Instead, the league opted to sign non-exclusive rights deals with the country’s leading telecoms trio Proximus, Telenet and Voo.

With the invitation to tender expected to be launched at the end of the month or start of November, Collard has expressed interest in trying to land the rights this time round, but only if a deal makes economic sense and doesn’t disrupt the business model.

He said: “The Belgian league interests us because we want to continue to grow but it’s one subject among others. We will first read the invitation to tender that we are awaiting this autumn.”

He added: “It’s a case of whether we can monetise the rights and get back the amount invested. Because in addition to the rights fee you need to add the production, marketing etc. So we’ll put down what we think is the right price.”

Collard said that Eleven Sports has focused on “offering a channel from A to Z allowing all Belgians to watch football with additional content, like the [second-tier] D1B [league], women’s football, amateur and youth [football], magazine programmes, digital content etc”.

For the current cycle (from 2017-18 to 2019-20), Pro League and the now collapsed MP & Silva agency brought in upwards of €80m per season from live domestic rights deals with Proximus, Telenet and Voo, plus highlights and clips contracts.

The new Pro League broadcast rights contracts are expected to run from 2020-21 to 2022-23.