Eleven launches in USA via purchase of One World Sports' distribution assets
By Jonathan Rest at Sportel America
Eleven Sports Network, the international pay-television broadcaster, has made its most ambitious move yet with a launch into USA.
The company, which launched in 2015 and is available in five countries, has acquired the distribution assets of One World Sports, the troubled cable and satellite sports broadcaster.
The deal means Eleven Sports is available in almost 50 million US homes through carriage deals with the likes of AT&T, DirecTV, Verizon, Charter and NCTC.
One Media Corp-owned OWS, which placed the majority of staff on a leave of absence late last year, continues to exist, but has only been showing reruns for the past few months.
Eleven Sports has stressed that it has not acquired OWS as a business, merely its distribution assets.
Eleven Sports USA will be led by Anthony Bailey, senior vice-president of Aser US, who will be supported by Marc Watson, executive chairman of Eleven Sports and its parent Aser Media, and group managing director Danny Menken.
Watson, the former barrister and sports rights specialist, who was the driving force behind the launch of BT Sport, the UK pay-TV broadcaster, told Sportcal that the process of acquiring live rights is under way.
He said: “We are doing deals at the moment. We’ll have 400 live events and 1,000 hours of live programming this year.”
A digital over-the-top platform will be launched alongside the existing linear channel, while opportunities in Canada will be assessed.
Eleven Sports will produce the content locally from a new hub to be established in Orlando, Florida, which will become part of the wider Aser group. An office is likely to be opened in New York.
Eleven operates in Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Taiwan and Singapore, but taking on the competitive US market is arguably its biggest challenge.
However, Watson said: “We see it as a really diverse market with a lot of opportunity, so we don’t think it is overly crowded. The existing channels are much bigger than us, and it may always be that way, but we think they are for an older male audience. We will be skewed to a younger, perhaps more female audience.”
Sports on the channel’s radar include cycling, ice hockey, basketball, soccer, rugby union, lacrosse, Twenty20 cricket, drone racing, CrossFit and e-gaming.
Menken added: “Following our launches in several other countries over the past two years, we have seen fans gravitate towards our content thanks to our strategy to deliver content tailored to specific markets in a fan-friendly way. We know that there are fans in the US who are underserved by the current sports networks and we are ready to give the fans what they want.”
OWS traditionally delivered live and exclusive coverage of sports played both within and outside USA, including basketball, college football and ice hockey, plus sporting events with large global followings like soccer, rugby and cricket.
Its rights portfolio prior to stopping showing live content included ice hockey's Champions Hockey League and Kontinental Hockey League, the Caribbean Premier League, the annual franchise-based T20 competition, and China Arena Football League, the new indoor American football league.
It also carried the in-house soccer channels of major clubs such as Bayern Munich, Juventus and Arsenal, and held exclusive rights to matches of the reborn New York Cosmos, the flagship franchise in the North American Soccer League, the second-tier US soccer league (Cosmos chairman Sean O'Brien co-founded OWS).