Mediapro and BeIN land exclusive Champions League rights in Spain
Live coverage of the Uefa Champions League in Spain will move to a pay-TV only model in 2018 after incumbent rights-holder Mediapro, the Spanish sports rights agency, was successful in the invitation to tender process.
Mediapro and BeIN Sports teamed up to launch channels in Spain in 2015 on the back of acquisitions including rights to Europe’s elite clubs competition, and have now secured the rights on an exclusive basis for the next three-year cycle.
Mediapro and BeIN are reported to have defeated competition from Movistar, the pay-TV outlet of Spanish telecoms group Telefónica, commercial broadcaster Mediaset España, public-service broadcaster TVE, Catalonian public-service broadcaster TV3 and Atresmedia, the owner of commercial network Antena 3.
Both Atresmedia and TV3 hold free-to-air rights to the Champions League in the current cycle, but have lost out going forward as Spain follows the other major markets of France, Germany, Italy and the UK in adopting a pay-TV model only for the tournament.
The current contracts are worth over €165 million ($184 million) per year, of which Mediapro contributes around €120 million and Atresmedia €40 million per year.
That three-year total of around €500 million has now more than doubled to €1.1 billion - or €367 million per season - according to El Pais, in an agreement also including the second-tier Europa League (Mediapro and BeIN acquired the Europa League rights separately for the current contract period).
Rights in the new cycle are more attractive to broadcasters given that there will be two different kick-off slots - 7pm and 9pm CET - from the 2018-19 season onwards.
The Team Marketing agency asked broadcasters to lodge their first-round offers by Tuesday and the process then went to a second round, with bidders instructed to submit new offers at the end of the day on Wednesday.
Mediapro is thought to have again teamed up with Atresmedia and TV3 in the first round, but then to have gone it alone in the second round in order to see off competition for the rights from Movistar TV, which showed the Champions League between 2012-13 and 2014-15.
It emerged last month that the Spanish arms of telecoms operators Vodafone and Orange would not be bidding for the rights to the Champions League, as they regarded it as an "irrational race," although they are likely to seek a continuation of the arrangement under which they carry Spanish TV channels showing matches.
The BeIN channels, including BeIN Sports LaLiga, which offers extensive live coverage of Spain's top flight, are all available on the Vodafone, Orange and Telefónica platforms.
The move to a pay-TV model only will naturally be a blow to many Spanish viewers, especially given this month’s Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus attracted a bumper audience of 8.2 million viewers (a 55.1-per-cent share) on Antena 3 (along with 657,000 viewers on TV3 and 207,000 BeIN subscribers).
There is likely to be free-to-air coverage of the final, however, which could hypothetically be shown on Gol, Mediapro’s free-to-air digital terrestrial channel, or even streamed on YouTube, as was the case for the 2015 final.