Eleven Sports vows to fight on in UK market

Eleven Sports has confirmed it is in talks to restructure its deals for rights to Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s LaLiga, as its chief executive Marc Watson has vowed the OTT service will fight on in the UK.

Eleven, which operates as a streaming service in the UK, has lost its Ultimate Fighting Championship rights in the UK from 2019 due to a lack of carriage agreements.

Marc Watson, chief executive of Eleven Sports, says their carriage deal offers to UK operators would have provided Sky, BT and Virgin Media with “the same rights for less than they would pay as rights-holders”.

Watson told SportBusiness Media: “We continue to negotiate with our UK rights partners to restructure our existing agreements in order to continue our current OTT service in this market for our customers, who are at the forefront of our minds.”

Eleven’s UK operation is part-owned by the IMG agency. It acquired rights to Serie A and the UFC from the agency, which holds international media rights to both properties.

IMG’s decision to become a minority shareholder in Eleven’s UK service, as well as a seller of premium rights in the country, was designed to prevent the UK media-rights market from deflating.

Backing Eleven in the UK ensured the value of its properties would not dramatically decrease, after Sky and BT agreed carriage deals for each other’s sports channels and called a truce on the fierce bidding war that had sent rights fees spiralling.

Eleven is active in multiple markets around the world, including Poland and Belgium, where the company says it is now profitable. Eleven also recently launched in Portugal, and has operations in Italy, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States.