ESPN+ adds Copa America to football portfolio

ESPN+ has again expanded its football portfolio by acquiring the exclusive English-language rights in the United States for the 2019 Copa America.

ESPN’s direct-to-consumer digital product will stream all 26 matches of the tournament, which is being held from June 14-July 7 throughout Brazil. ESPN+ will also carry the matches in Portuguese.

The NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo Deportes is the exclusive Spanish-language home of the tournament in the States and will broadcast the event across its platforms, including linear television.

In the past year, ESPN+ has acquired the rights to numerous global soccer properties, including Serie A, the English Football League, FA Cup, Major League Soccer, United Soccer League and the International Champions Cup among many others. Such content, which often would have difficulty finding room in a busy linear TV programming schedule, has been crucial in burnishing the over-the-top streaming service.

Earlier this month, Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice-president of programming and scheduling, told SportBusiness that the network was looking to “stack up global soccer as much we can” for ESPN+.

“We’re looking at all territories,” Magnus said. “We probably could do more in Latin America, South America, Central America, Mexico. That’s the next place we’re going to look….For an overall soccer fan, just having this buffet of great leagues and tournaments around the world is part of our design of making ESPN+ an indispensable proposition for a fan in that category. But in you need to have a critical mass [of rights] in order to have that dynamic.”

ESPN+, which costs $4.99 per month, currently has more than two million subscribers.

Most recent

Social media giant Facebook’s challenges around its Copa Libertadores coverage in Latin America have convinced it that non-exclusive rights models form “one of the best ways” of breaking into markets where entrenched viewing habits restrict the potential for exclusive rights to grow engagement with the platform.

The Football Association rejected a higher bid for domestic FA Cup rights for the 2021-25 cycle from incumbent pay-television broadcaster BT Sport in favour of commercial broadcaster ITV, SportBusiness Media understands, in a move that took the competition exclusively free to air in the UK.

Spanish football’s LaLiga extended its rights deal in China with Wuhan DDMC Culture in May without going to market, where it would have faced a tough task maintaining its income, SportBusiness Media understands. The Chinese rights market has cooled since the previous deal was agreed, and DDMC is thought to be paying the league a strong rights fee.

South African pay-television operator Multichoice is facing the biggest challenge in its 26-year history in the form of a two-pronged regulatory attack on its dominant position in the country’s sports-rights market.