Eleven seeks solution to OTT monetisation conundrum via MyCujoo swoop
By Jonathan Rest
Eleven Sports, the international subscription broadcaster, is hoping it can finally crack the digital monetisation code following its acquisition this week of MyCujoo, the global soccer streaming platform.
MyCujoo’s goal since launch in 2015 has been to democratise sport, principally soccer, and its consumer platform will be folded into Eleven, with the content offering to be organised into the three verticals that were unveiled in the Eleven 2.0 strategy announcement in August: Eleven Next; Eleven Women; and Eleven Esports.
Whether ad-funded, monthly subscriptions or pay-per-view, there has been no easy formula for monetising OTT platforms.
The new trio of Eleven services are expected to be ready for launch in the first quarter of 2021, and while there is no expectation that they will immediately create a huge revenue stream, the two parties can see where possibilities lie.
Speaking to industry titles on a conference call yesterday, Eleven Sports chief executive Luis Vicente (pictured left) said: “If you talk about sports today, digital monetisation is still not where it should be. In the sports industry, we know we have the numbers, we know we have traffic, but there is not a robust success story on successfully monetising digital as it potentially could be.
“We believe today there is a good potential for us to monetise this new investment on a freemium model. We’ll be looking to give the big majority of content for free. In some areas and some sports, we’ll be looking at finding other ways – mostly subscriptions, micro transactions and additional micro pay-per-view items.
“It’s the combination of the two that will decide if we are successful. But we cannot stand away from the journey that us and MyCujoo started many years ago of providing access to people. You need to continue doing that as the vast majority of the world’s population still cannot enjoy the sport they like, that they love in efficient conditions.”
Vicente indicated that Eleven and MyCujoo will mine the user data to see what “additional services and experiences” can be offered.
He continued: “What does a fan today want when he sees his small club in Mongolia playing a local derby that attracts, on average, 5,000 to 6,000 people per game on MyCujoo? Do they really want to see what speed the players are running, the full stats of the game, do they want to transact and buy something during the game, and if so do they want their own virtual currency when doing that to be integrated? That is where the experience has to grow.”
He continued: “We believe in what we are doing. Of course it will take time. Don’t expect us to generate zillions in the first year. We’re taking a mid- to long-term view. The next five years will be essential. Is it going to be easy? No, it’s going to be really difficult.”
Pedro Presa (right), who co-founded MyCujoo with his brother Joao, added: “We always knew that some day we would have to combine premium with longtail and bring a global offering where we could serve the end consumer better.
“The journey that MyCujoo took five years ago was really hard - to show the world that longtail was actually an attractive product [for sponsors]. Moving five years forward, we finally brought, with our technology and our partners, the validation that these pieces of content needed, in terms of quality of delivery and technical aspects, to be monetised in a scalable way.
“We believe that we are on track as a MyCujoo business together with Eleven to be profitable really soon. And that we’ve found the essence of what it means to drive a freemium model for the consumers but still be able to monetise this content in multiple ways, through subscriptions, data, AV etc.”
One clear revenue opportunity comes through MyCujoo Live Services (MCLS), which was launched earlier this year and which will remain a separate entity within the Eleven group, keeping its brand name.
MCLS is an end-to-end live streaming service that delivers viewing experiences to fans, and has garnered significant interest in the market from major sports and music rights holders worldwide.
Presa said it now has around 30 clients, and is already proving to be a “highly scalable and robust solution.”
He added: “During the Covid-19 crisis, multiple sports federations, broadcasters and music rights-holders contacted us to use our technology. There was a big problem in the market because there was a lack of automated products out there allowing buyers be ready to go live on their platforms within a matter of minutes without having to hire a full out of the box OTT.”
Vicente said the MyCujoo technology stack will be “the engine for our new longtail and newtail platforms,” calling it “an unbeatable ratio of cost and delivery.”
The new global digital service will sit alongside Eleven's regional platforms in Belgium, Portugal, Poland, Italy, Taiwan, Myanmar and Japan, which will continue to serve local fans directly with live sport and entertainment.
In those markets Eleven holds rights to major global properties like soccer’s Uefa Champions League, English Premier League, Spanish LaLiga and German Bundesliga, motor racing’s Formula 1 and American football’s NFL. It combines those with popular local sports, for instance, the domestic baseball and basketball leagues in Taiwan.
Vicente sees obvious synergies with MyCujoo’s portfolio of rights, noting: “Eleven 1.0 was really the country-by-country method and that has been very successful as a linear-first, digital-second business. Now Eleven 2.0 is about the exploitation of a digital-first platform and the exploitation of technology supply services.
“So, we will be looking at different situations in countries. In most countries we have a more premium set of rights, and then a local set of rights… That mix has proven to work.
“Now we have an interesting case. When we look at Portugal, for example, where we have the Champions League and LaLiga, MyCujoo has a lot of rights in the semi-professional leagues and those rights will remain on Eleven Next. This is the kind of content that is not advisable to go on the main grid on Eleven Sports Portugal.”
While the focus is on Eleven 2.0 and the global roll out with MyCujoo, Vicente said Eleven 1.0 “will continue to grow."
He continued: “We have the trial in Thailand [an Eleven channel streaming Thai League 1 matches on MyCujoo until the end of 2020], and we are entertaining discussions to have a more permanent future there. So country-by-country is still very interesting for us.
“With the acquisition of MyCujoo we become global. We were an international brand, but we were not really global. Now we have the capability of offering global scale and distribution to our partners, with global engagement and a global audience.”
While soccer has been MyCujoo’s staple, it did have a brief foray into field hockey, when it created the FIH.live OTT platform with the sport’s governing body.
The FIH has since entered into a 10-year partnership with Nagra, the Kudelski Group-owned company that provides security solutions for digital media, to create a revamped OTT offering and integrated digital channels.
Presa said under Eleven’s ownership, it will look to broaden its content offering.
He said: “When myself and Joao started MyCujoo we had the dream to scale from football to many other sports. You saw us trying out with hockey and we had many discussions with our shareholders. As a start-up the financial limitations are always applicable when we were trying to scale.
“The dream of scaling to other sports was always there and the fact that we’re working with Luis, Andrea [Radrizzani, Eleven owner] and the whole Eleven management team and shareholders, we share that dream. Now we’re part of a bigger group that has bigger ambitions and we want to open the platform to multiple other sports.”
Vicente added: “Football will still play a big role, but it’s not the only sport we do… You will see us do more investments in baseball, cricket, motor sports, basketball and many others.
“If we really want to be serious on sports democratisation, we have to offer access to many sports.”