Perhaps the interest in DDMC Fortis’ balance sheet has more to do with the general mood of the industry. There appears to be, from the sidelines at least, a reluctance to gamble – ironic, in Macau
Jonathan RestJonathan Rest is the News Editor of Sportcal
Who, what, where, when, why: the five Ws that form the basics of Journalism 101.
And it’s the five little words that you regularly hear on the shop floor at Sportel, the little snippets of gossip that seldom materialise into anything concrete.
Sportel Asia in Macau last week was no different, albeit the ‘Where’ this time was often followed by ‘is everybody?’
It was a particularly quiet week, even considering the smaller number of delegates that traditionally make up the now-annual spring trip to Asia.
The FAANGS (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) didn’t show their faces, let alone their teeth
The location had much to do with it – Macau is not the most accessible place in the world, requiring, for many, a ferry across from Hong Kong – but put simply there was a distinct lack of buyers, an obvious bugbear for those with sales sheets to distribute in Macau.
DAZN, the international OTT sports service, has been the big spender in recent months… just not on flights to Macau it seems.
Perhaps surprisingly the FAANGS (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) didn’t show their faces, let alone their teeth.
On a global scale, there was much talk of the impending sale of Lagardère Sports, the sports marketing arm of Lagardère, which is expected to be completed by September.
The general consensus is that the Lagardère group has whittled it down to three serious bidders involved, but no-one really knows what impact a sale will have on the market, or what Lagardère Sports will look like when the market reconvenes in Monte Carlo in October.
The agency will, of course, be shorn of its profitable Asian Football Confederation business from 2021 onwards after losing out in the rights auction.
The winning bid from DDMC Fortis for the rights from 2021 to 2028 was worth well over twice the $1 billion that Lagardère is paying for the rights from 2013 to 2020.
(In addition to the five Ws of journalism, there’s often an H – how? For the many people I spoke to last week, it was very much a case of how DDMC Fortis can hope to make money on such an eyewatering deal.)
But it’s not as if DDMC Fortis has bought a dud. The entity’s representatives were hidden away in the private meeting rooms of the JW Marriott all week negotiating deals.
Perhaps the interest in DDMC Fortis’ balance sheet has more to do with the general mood of the industry at present.
There appears to be, from the sidelines at least, a reluctance to gamble right now – ironic, in Macau.
The rapid of downfall of MP & Silva is still having ramifications, particularly in Asia, where the agency’s former owners Everbright, the Chinese investment company, and Baofeng Group, the Chinese technology company, reside.
One Asia-based rights-holder consultant told me: “There’s trepidation on a macro-economic level… It’s a dark tunnel. You’ll come out of it fine, but where do you hedge your bets?”
Another delegate referred to the agency market in Asia as “competitive, but consolidating,” citing Lagardère’s loss of the AFC contract.
Across the South China Sea, the “water is beginning to warm up” for Chinese investment in sport, with new telcos coming to the fore
The collapse of LeSports, the sports arm of big-spending Chinese digital media and technology company LeEco, is still being felt, while sports investments remain more conservative in the wake of government-imposed restrictions.
But one market expert remarked: “PPTV [the online streaming service owned by Suning, the Chinese electronics retailer] is continuing to make big strides, and then you’re starting to see a lot more of new players like Youku [Alibaba’s video streaming platform] and Migu [China Mobile's entertainment content subsidiary].
“With 5G and 4K technology so prevalent, telecoms players are coming more into the sports market. That was never the case in China before.”
This was not, of course, the Sportel Monaco of high-profile rights announcements and 11th hour press conferences – even if they were in short supply last October – and that is the result of the seasonal nature of sports rights, with a number of the biggest properties either in between cycles or closing just small pockets of business.
While this was not the hive of activity of recent Sportel gatherings, there was at least one constant: the now biannual state of the union address from Javier Tebas.
The LaLiga president came armed with a strong message to rights-owners: do more to protect your content from being pirated, or face a big drop in rights fees in the next cycle.
“There are some competitors who don’t share this concept. They see the broadcasters as the holders of the rights so they don’t protect them like we are doing,” said Tebas, who also took time to criticise broadcasters that “say they participate in the fight against piracy, but don’t actually do anything.”
And with the Saudi Arabia-based pirate network beoutQ showing little sign of abiding by media rights contracts and IP laws, this seems like one that will run and run beyond the next Sportel industry gathering.