Uefa launching OTT service in next six months to join digital 'revolution'
By Simon Ward
Uefa said today that it will be launching its planned new over-the-top service later this year to provide a new outlet for European soccer, and plans to work with “the world’s leading companies” on the project.
Having been re-elected unopposed as president of European soccer’s governing body, for a further four years, at the Uefa Congress in Rome, Aleksander Čeferin (pictured) said that the service would go live in the next six months.
It is thought that the platform will initially focus on minor Uefa tournaments, potentially the new third-tier clubs competition to come in 2021-22, non-live content and territories outside Europe. This is because media rights to top competitions such as the 2020 European Championships and the club game’s Uefa Champions League are largely tied up in the main markets for the current commercial cycle.
Čeferin told delegates that it was important to make soccer more accessible worldwide, including via new digital services.
He added: “This is why I am pleased to announce that Uefa will be launching its OTT platform in the next six months. We are fully aware that a revolution is under way, and are in the process of agreeing historic partnerships with the world's leading companies in this field.”
Čeferin pointed out that Uefa is already aligned with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, in an eight-year sponsorship deal covering national team competitions signed last November, and worth a reported $230 million.
Uefa’s OTT ambitions were outlined by senior executive Guy-Laurent Epstein in October.
In an interview with the Spanish sports website Palco23, Epstein, the marketing director of Uefa Events, said the governing body did not intend to undermine the value of media rights deals with traditional broadcasters, saying: “We do not seek to compete with them, but to be complementary thanks to the wide range we have.”
While he did not provide many further details today, Čeferin said of Uefa’s digital goals: “We have already started to move in this direction thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Alibaba Group. This partnership is more than a simple sponsorship deal. It's a first agreement that opens up new horizons, such as the creation of a centre of excellence in new football technologies or joint e-commerce projects.
“Together, we are inventing the future, and our only limit is our imagination.”
Epstein had said last autumn that the content on the OTT platform could include summaries, delayed games, behind-the-scenes footage, magazine programmes and indoor, women’s and youth competitions that do not enjoy the same level of exposure as men’s soccer.
Uefa and its broadcast partners have taken note of the moves into sport by digital platforms such as Amazon and Netflix, and, while still emphasising the importance of live content, are looking at ways of diversifying their offering.
Epstein said: “The media landscape has evolved a lot, and generates many opportunities to always be ‘on’ and have relevant content to offer.”
Earlier on Thursday, David Gill, the Uefa treasurer, presented a budget of €5.72 billion ($6.48 billion) for the 2019-20 season, with Euro 2020, to be held in 12 cities across Europe, to be “the cornerstone” of revenues.
The figure represents a 25-per-cent increase on the €4.58 billion generated in 2015-16, the last year of a European Championships.
The vast majority of income will continue to derive from broadcasting (€4.19 billion) and commercial sources (€977 million).
Uefa turnover amounted to €2.79 billion in 2017-18, a year without a major international tournament (the World Cup is a Fifa event), and this figure is expected to rise to €3.86 billion in 2018-19.
Revenues from Euro 2020 are expected to amount to €2.09 billion, up 9 per cent from the €1.92 million generated from Euro 2016 held in France, with broadcasting up 7 per cent to €1.1 billion and commercial up 5 per cent to €508 million.
Euro 2016 was the first tournament to involve 24 teams and 51 matches, an increase from 16 teams and 31 matches previously.
Income from club competitions is expected to be relatively unchanged in 2019-20, at €3.25 billion, taking into account it will be the second year of the three-year commercial cycle, with broadcasting contributing €2.75 billion and commercial €456 million.