Spanish agency Mediapro has said it will open a tender for domestic rights to the Uefa Champions League and Europa League next month, as Vodafone España became the latest telco to express its unease at the cost of agreeing carriage deals for club football in the country.
In July, a joint venture between Mediapro and pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports was confirmed as the exclusive rights-holder in Spain for the Champions League and Europa League. The rights will run for three seasons, from 2018-19 to 2020-21.
BeIN and Mediapro are the current holders of pay-television Champions League rights across the 2015-16 to 2017-18 seasons, with commercial broadcaster Atresmedia and Catalan public-service broadcaster TV3 holding free-to-air rights.
The new deal marks the first time that Champions League rights have been awarded solely to a pay-television platform. Regarding a tender process for sublicensing the rights, Mediapro president Jaume Roures told the Reuters news agency: “We’ll ask for offers to be sent to us at the beginning of March. Then at the start of April, we’ll see where the genuine interest is.”
Roures’ comments come after Vodafone España chief executive, Antonio Coimbra, said that he does not understand the “absurd” costs of acquiring football rights.
Coimbra has called for a new, “more balanced” model for the rights process. Vodafone has said that customers would have to pay between €50 ($62) and €60 per month to cover its costs for football rights, when they currently pay €20.
Using an example of Vodafone having 400,000 subscribers for football content, Coimbra told Spanish news agency EFE: “If we stop having football, and all the customers leave, in the worst case scenario, €192m a year would be lost, when the costs surpass €200m annually.
“We have reached the absurd situation that even if all customers are lost at once, it is more profitable.”
Earlier, Vodafone’s fellow telco Telefónica threatened to forgo renewing its contract with Mediapro to broadcast the Champions League, with chief operating officer Ángel Vilá criticising the “exuberance and excess” in the sports rights market.
Telefónica currently broadcasts the Champions League in Spain through a carriage deal for its Movistar service. However, Vilá said there is a “clear and genuine” possibility that the operator will not renew the contract it currently has with Mediapro.
Vilà has not ruled out opting for “part of the rights” adding that Telefónica could seek to partner with an internet company such as Amazon to forge a deal. Coimbra said that Vodafone would also be open to such an approach.