Digiturk cites cost concerns after TFF expands Süper Lig for 2020-21 season
By Jonathan Rest
Digiturk, the domestic broadcast rights-holder for Turkish soccer’s Süper Lig, is heading for another dispute with the Turkish Football Federation after criticising the governing body's decision to do away with relegation and increase the size of the top flight for the 2020-21 season.
The BeIN Media Group-owned pay-TV operator holds Süper Lig rights in a five-year deal to 2021-22 and is angered by the lack of consultation from the TFF before the decision was taken.
It is also concerned over the increased production costs that will come with a 21-team league, particularly at a time when budgets are constrained.The league concluded last weekend having resumed in June after a three-month break, with Istanbul Basaksehir (pictured) crowned champions for the first time.
Ankaragucu, Kayserispor and Yeni Malatyapor had been set for relegation from the 18-team top flight after finishing in the bottom three places, but, citing the impact on teams of the coronavirus pandemic, the TFF this week decided against demoting the trio, and with the promotion of three teams from the second tier, the Süper Lig will now comprise 21 teams next season.
At the end of the 2020-21 season, four teams instead of three will be relegated, taking the number of sides to 20 for the 2021-22 campaign.
Saad Saleh Al-Hudaifi, Digiturk's head of sports content, said: “To be honest, it is a big surprise for me. We met with the TFF four times in the past month. Nobody told us about this. We were talking about Covid and the new season.
“From 18 teams to 21, it is not a decision that can be made without asking the broadcaster, I think it is not the right decision. It will affect our daily business, our production cost, and the strategy of our channels.”
He continued: “Instead of 306, we will broadcast 420 matches. 37.2 per cent more matches than the current season. We will broadcast 114 more matches. We need to talk about the geographical situation. We are talking about clubs in three different cities.
"We have to hire more teams and more broadcast vehicles. This is a very difficult situation for us. Broadcasting the league in this way is not easy. We respect the TFF's decisions, we are happy to work with them, but we would like to be asked this formally, we would like to return to them with the data.”
The Digiturk deal with the TFF involves BeIN distributing the international rights, and is worth $2.5 billion in total.
BeIN broadcasts the Turkish top flight in 43 territories, including France, USA and the Middle East and North Africa, and distributes the rights in countries where it does not operate, taking the total broadcast footprint to 108 countries.
Al-Hudaifi also claimed the TFF has done little to help Digiturk fight piracy, despite a commitment from the governing body to address the issue as part of an agreement reached on the eve of the 2019-20 season on the new terms of Digiturk and BeIN’s media rights deal for the Süper Lig.
As well as renegotiating the financial terms so that they reflected the collapse in the value of the Turkish lira, Digiturk and BeIN received assurances from the TFF on piracy.
The two broadcasters had claimed that the league was turning a blind eye to the activity, with some clubs even posting live clips of their games on social media channels.Al-Hudaifi said: “Last season, we had a serious meeting on pirate publishing. No action was taken from last season until this season.
“We are seriously damaged by pirate publishing. Clubs are harmed by pirate publishing. We talk about other issues, but we need to talk about pirate publishing. We are partners. They need to be discussed with the official publisher.”
At the turn of the year, Digiturk said audiovisual piracy was costing the Turkish sports industry and television sector almost TL500 million ($72 million) per year.