Eleven finally seals Telenet distribution, Vier retains highlights

Subscription broadcaster Eleven Sports has negotiated a carriage agreement with telecoms operator Telenet for its Belgian football Pro League channels.

The news was announced on Friday evening in time for the second round of 2020-21 Pro League fixtures and also came as commercial broadcaster Vier finalised a deal for free-to-air Dutch-language highlights rights.

The new season kicked off without a distribution agreement in place with Belgium’s largest telco, prompting Telenet to compensate its customers with a discount of €10 ($11.85) per month on their Play Sports subscriptions until an agreement could be hammered out with Eleven.

The long-awaited accord was announced in time for Telenet’s subscribers to watch Friday evening’s clash between Mouscron and KV Mechelen.

Five-year distribution deals were already in place with telecoms trio Proximus, Voo and Orange, plus Télésat/TV Vlaanderen. The duration of the contract with Telenet has not been specified although it is understood to be a long-term deal.

Eleven is paying €103m per season from 2020-21 to 2024-25 for its exclusive global rights to Belgian football, and has launched three dedicated Belgian football channels as the new season begins.

Jeroen Bronselaer, residential marketing director at Telenet, said: “We realise that we disappointed a lot of customers when we couldn’t offer football last weekend. So we have done everything possible over the past few days to reach an agreement.”

Guillaume Collard, managing director for Eleven Sports Belgium and Luxembourg and head of acquisitions for the Eleven group, remarked: “From the start, our intention was to make Belgian football available to as many supporters as possible. We have succeeded in achieving that goal and delivering on our mission to ‘By The Fans. For the Fans’. With 100 per cent linear distribution secured and an extensive and innovative digital network in place, we will be bringing Belgian football to more fans than ever before.”

Telenet, Proximus and Voo shared non-exclusive live rights to the Belgian top flight from 2017-18 to 2019-20 in deals worth around €80m per season.

Pierre François, chief executive of the Pro League, added: “Today’s agreement between Eleven Sports and Telenet brings together the three historic rights-holders around the Home of Belgian Football project. As an agreement had already been concluded with Orange and TV-Vlaanderen/Télésat, the number of television viewers who will be able to follow Belgian football is increasing considerably.”

Free-to-air highlights

Meanwhile, it has been announced that the SBS-owned Vier has retained the main Dutch-language highlights package “for the coming seasons”. Telenet acquired De Vijver Media, the media company that houses the SBS assets in Belgium, in 2018.

In the absence of a highlights deal in the Flanders region, Dutch-language highlights of the first weekend of action were shown free of charge on the league website and by Eleven Sports via its OTT platform, linear channel Eleven Pro League 1 and its YouTube channel.

Ahead of the new campaign, Flemish public-service broadcaster VRT tied up a five-year highlights content deal. That agreement afforded the broadcaster content rights to continue broadcasting its long-running Monday-evening Pro League magazine programme.

VRT also acquired live radio rights and highlights rights that it can showcase from Sunday evening on its Sporza website and app. Highlights rights from the women’s Super League have also been secured by VRT for the first time.

A five-year highlights deal was signed with Belgian French-language public-service broadcaster RTBF in time for the new season.

In June, it was reported that Telenet and Proximus were considering the initiation of arbitration proceedings against the Pro League over the repayment of a slice of their final broadcast rights fee for the uncompleted 2019-20 season. The duo has been looking for compensation to be paid after the league moved on April 2 to recommend the termination of the rest of the current campaign in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.