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FREE | Balkans market report, 2020

In the latest interactive monthly data report, SportBusiness Media analyses the media-rights landscape in the Balkans region, consisting of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. SportBusiness Media has defined the Balkans in this way as pan-regional broadcasters and sports rights-holders approach these markets simultaneously in the acquisition of media rights.

Further detail on the deals covered in this interactive data report is available with our Rights Tracker tool – click here for more information.

Profitable market

The Balkans has been one of the most active regions in the last two years in terms of the number of sports rights-holders approaching the market to seal new deals. Six out of the top ten international properties were able to secure significant increases in new media deals. The average increase for these new deals is about 92.2 per cent.

Rights in the region are sold either collectively or on a market-by-market basis.

Soccer dominates the Balkans media-rights landscape with five out of the top ten properties. Basketball is also valuable, together with handball and tennis.

The market growth over the last few years has been heavily influenced by fierce competition between the two main broadcasters in the region: Arena Sport and SportKlub. The former is a pay-television broadcaster owned by state-owned telecommunications Telekom Srbija through its subsidiary company HD-WIN; while the latter is a pay-television broadcaster owned by media group United Media.

Sportklub operates across all the Balkans while Arena Sport’s coverage covers Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. In most cases, Arena sublicenses its pan-regional Balkan rights in Slovenia to sports channel Šport TV.

Other players in the market include national broadcasters like HRT in Croatia, RTCG in Montenegro, RTS in Serbia, RTVS in Slovenia and MKRTV in North Macedonia.

Top international soccer properties

Uefa Champions League and Europa League rights are the most valuable in the Balkans. In the 2018-21 cycle, the value comes from a combination of deals in Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia with public broadcasters HRT and RTS and telcos Hrvatski Telekom, Makedonski Telekom, Telekom Austria, Telekom Srbija and United Media.

In April this year, European football’s governing body secured a 134-per-cent uplift in new deals in the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle. Telekom Srbija won Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League rights in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia Serbia and Croatia. In Croatia, public-service broadcaster HRT renewed its rights to the first-pick Wednesday Champions League match.

The top European football leagues are also amongst the most valuable properties in the region.

English Premier League rights are held by Sportklub in a three-season deal, from 2019-20 to 2021-22. Rights were sold by the IMG agency which acquired EPL rights in the Balkans for the 2019-22 cycle directly from the league. That deal was part of a wider deal across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia for rights across 26 countries. The current deal in the Balkans is an increase of at least 12.5 per cent on the value of the EPL’s previous three-season deal with IMG, which sold on rights to Sportklub.

Spain’s LaLiga currently generates about 25 per cent less than the EPL from its media-rights deals in the region, in a three-season deal with the IMG agency, from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The agency sold the rights to Sportklub in the current cycle.

In June this year, LaLiga’s international distributor Mediapro agreed to a new five-season agreement, from 2021-22 to 2025-26, in the Balkans with Telekom Srbija.

Italy’s Serie A is currently held by Telekom Srbija in a three-season deal, from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The current value is a small increase on the value of the telco’s previous three-season deal for Serie A rights in the region, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, worth about 11 per-cent less than the current deal.

United Media has also massively invested in all rights for Uefa national team competitions in separate deals in each of the Balkan countries. The deals guarantee Sportklub exclusive pay-television rights to all Euro 2020 matches; and first-, second- and third-party European Qualifier and Nations League rights. United also exploits rights in each country on its commercial broadcasters, such as Nova in Croatia and Serbia, and Pink in Bosnia and Montenegro.

Among the Balkans’ top 10 most valuable international properties, there are also some relevant from outside of soccer, including the National Basketball Association, Euroleague basketball, the ATP tennis World Tour and European Handball Federation.

For the NBA, Arena Sport holds rights across the Balkans in a six-season deal from 2019-20 to 2024-25. The current deal, agreed in May 2019, represented an increase of about 233 per cent on the previous deal with Sportklub. The NBA became popular across the region due to the jump in the number of players from the Balkans playing in the league. The growing interest led to a fierce battle between Arena and Sportklub to obtain rights.

Sportklub holds the rights to Euroleague Basketball in a four-season deal for rights to the top-tier EuroLeague and second-tier EuroCup, from 2019-20 to 2022-23.

The Balkans is an extremely valuable region also for the ATP World Tour. In February this year, Sportklub renewed its rights with ATP Media in a four-year deal from 2020 to 2023. The deal represents a 60-per-cent increase on the previous deal for the same rights, from 2017 to 2019.

Lastly, handball rights are also among the top-tier rights for sports broadcasters in the Balkans. At the end of 2019, Arena picked up the rights to the EHF men’s and women’s club competitions (the EHF Champions League, the European Handball League and the EHF Cup), from 2020-21 to 2023-24, and the 2022 and 2024 men’s and women’s European championships in a pan-regional deal. The new deal represents a 75-per-cent increase in the value of the rights.

Click on each property logo to filter historical media-rights value information.

Balkans properties

While international properties are extremely valuable in the market, domestic properties generate a lower amount of revenues from media rights.

Arena Sport holds the most significant portfolio of domestic properties, with deals for national soccer competitions in Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.

The most recent deal involving a sports property in the Balkans was agreed in August this year. The Croatian Football Association (HNS) finalised a 10-year broadcast rights and production deal with the UK-based company Endorphin Magine Ltd for the Croatian First Football League starting from the 2022-23 season. The rights are currently held by Arena Sport, in a three-year deal from 2019-20 to 2021-22.

Market actors

The Balkans market has experienced notable growth in the last few years due to competition between Arena Sport and Sportklub.

Arena Sport’s owner Telekom Srbija is state-owned while private equity firm BC Partners owns Sportklub’s owner United Media. The two competitors have enabled rights-holders across several sports to increase their media revenues from the region. But they have also been able to agree to carriage deals for Sportklub’s channels on Telekom Srbija’s cable operators.

Click on each broadcaster logo to filter the media-rights portfolio.

Most recent

Spanish telco Telefónica will hold steady its per-year outlay on Formula One rights in its renewal for the 2021-23 cycle, SportBusiness Media understands.

Uefa has seen the value of its top-tier Champions League competition fall by a fifth in Italy for the coming 2021-24 cycle. But the drop has been cushioned by the entry of ecommerce giant Amazon, which has committed a considerable amount to acquire a package of rights.

The NBA has avoided a severe decrease in fee for its rights in Belgium despite an absence of competition, renewing with Eleven Sports Network for the 2020-23 cycle at a slight reduction compared to the previous cycle.

Infront has edged closer to enhancing its dominance over skiing media rights, with the agency entering exclusive negotiations with the Swiss Ski Association for international rights from 2022-23, following a hotly contested tender process.