Now UK's Premier Sports picks up slate of LaLiga matches but Eleven's deal unaffected
By Jonathan Rest
Eleven Sports, the international subscription broadcaster, has insisted it is business as usual in the UK and Ireland, after pay-television operator Premier Sports picked up rights to a handful of LaLiga games each week until the end of the season.
Premier Sports' acquisition of rights to four matches per week from Spain's top tier adds to its exclusive capture of Italy's Serie A, the Netherlands' Eredivisie and the Chinese Super League, all properties previously held by Eleven, in an agreement with the IMG agency late last month.
Rights to LaLiga were retained by Eleven on a digital-only basis until the end of the season, with “the intention of continuing beyond,” but LaLiga and its media partner Mediapro were known to be keen to have some TV exposure for the remainder of the season.
Eleven will continue to live-stream all 10 LaLiga games each week, and from 1 March the price of its service will drop by £1 ($1.30) to £4.99 per month to reflect the loss of Serie A, Eredivisie and CSL rights.
Sportcal understands that the company is relatively unconcerned by the Premier Sports-LaLiga deal, as after failing to agree carriage deals with Sky, BT and Virgin, its stated aim in the UK was to become an OTT platform and sell off the TV rights part of its exclusive contracts. It even believes it is a template that could be replicated next season.
It was unable to do that with the IMG-represented leagues, however, once the relationship with the agency ended. IMG had taken a small stake in Eleven’s UK and Ireland operation before the channels were launched and as Eleven secured a suite of rights, but that relationship came to an end last month, prompting IMG to deal with Premier Sports.
Melcior Soler, audiovisual department director, LaLiga, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Premier Sports to the LaLiga family. Thanks to this agreement the best league in the world can be enjoyed across multiple broadcast platforms in the UK & Ireland. We are only days away until Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona meet in El Clásico and Premier Sports viewers will have one of the best seats in the house for the most anticipated fixture in world football.”
Richard Sweeney, chief executive of Premier Sports, added: “This addition makes Premier Sports a must-have channel for football fans and underpins our drive to bring even more exceptional value to our customers as we continue to build our brand.”
In a bid to entice customers - and no doubt divert them from paying £4.99 per month to Eleven - Premier Sports said it is offering new customers access at the reduced rate of £5.99 per month with the first month free of charge. The price will revert to £9.99 from August, when at present it is unknown where LaLiga rights in the UK will reside.
Combined with the other recently-acquired leagues, Premier Sports will carry at least 14 live soccer games each weekend, of which some will air on its free-to-air sister network FreeSports. It will also offer weekly LaLiga highlights and magazine programming.
In an exclusive interview with Sportcal earlier this week, Marc Watson, Eleven's executive chairman and group chief executive, said he still hoped the company had a future in the UK and Ireland, which he described as the "toughest market" for a new entrant wishing to gain support from established operators.
He said of the current UK situation: “We are a digital product dedicated to Spanish football. We are investing in the product, adding content [Eleven recently acquired exclusive rights to the semi-finals of the knockout Copa del Rey] and we are expanding distribution to enable customers to watch our application on smart TVs. The service is growing. It is a good service.
“We have agreed with LaLiga that we will continue this service until the end of the season. We are reviewing what happens beyond that. We would like to continue if we can find the right basis to do that. Those conversations are live right now.”