Eleven Sports, Belgian Pro League sign off on five-year contract

Subscription broadcaster Eleven Sports has finally signed off on its five-year domestic media-rights agreement with Belgian football’s Pro League.

The agreement was signed today (Friday) after the Pro League board approved final talks on June 12.

In February, the Pro League voted in favour of a five-year contract with Eleven Sports, covering domestic and international rights to the top two Belgian divisions and worth €103m ($115.4m) per season between 2020-21 and 2024-25.

Antwerp and Gent initially opposed the collective deal but subsequently signed up to support it.

Along with rights to the top-tier First Division A and second-tier First Division B, the deal also includes the Belgian Cup, the Belgian Super Cup, the women’s Super League and the E-Pro League.

Pierre François, the Pro League chief executive, and Guillaume Collard, Eleven Sports’ managing director in Belgium and Luxembourg and group head of acquisitions, were the signatories on either side.

François said: “I am delighted about the signing of the agreement but also about the relationship Eleven Sports and the Pro League have built during the negotiations. The agreement is, of course, in line with the provisions of the tender. We signed a strong agreement today, which will benefit both our clubs and the fans.”

Collard added: “Concluding an agreement of this scale takes time. I would like to thank Pierre François and [head of legal and media rights] Leander Monbaliu of the Pro League, as well as the 24 clubs, for their confidence. This is a new step for Belgian football. We are excited to get started on the 7th of August. In the coming days, we will announce the signed agreements and we will explain our plans for next season.”

Having launched the invitation to tender on December 2, the Pro League invited bids across 11 packages for four- or five-year contract terms.

Eleven boost

The acquisition of rights by Eleven is a major boon to the Aser Ventures-owned broadcaster after it lost out on the rights during the last auction. It also represents the most high-profile domestic property secured by Eleven in any of the territories in which it operates.

Eleven Sports is now profitable in the lowland country. It is distributed by various operators in over 750,000 Belgian homes.

The broadcaster launched two channels in Belgium in August 2015 on telco Proximus’ platform and introduced its OTT service later that year. A third channel was added in 2017 as a result of the broadcaster’s increasing sports-rights portfolio.

Proximus and fellow telecoms operator Telenet, the outgoing rights-holders, have been studying the initiation of arbitration proceedings against Pro League over the repayment of a slice of their final broadcast rights fee for the uncompleted 2019-20 season. The two broadcasters have 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.

The two telecoms operators, along with Voo, a third telco, shared non-exclusive live rights to the Belgian top flight from 2017-18 to 2019-20 in deals worth around €80m per season.