FEI removes OTT paywall and offers broadcasters free archive

The FEI, the international federation for equestrian sport, has removed the paywall from its FEI.tv streaming platform and is also providing free archive footage to broadcasters.

Announcing the move today (Friday), the FEI said that the OTT platform will provide all of its coverage of past events and special equestrian features free of charge while live sport is on hold until the end of June.

Existing FEI.tv subscribers will be compensated for the months of April, May and June with automatic refunds on their accounts due to the shutdown of live events amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The federation’s OTT subscription service generated CHF1.87m (€1.78m/$1.94m) in revenues in 2018. The streaming technology is provided by Endeavor Streaming, the streaming arm of Endeavor, the agency and talent management group that owns IMG.

FEI commercial director Ralph Straus said: “Premium content like this usually sits behind a paywall and is normally available only to subscribers, but while there is no ‘live’ sport, we want to give equestrian fans the chance to binge-watch for free during this terrible pandemic.”

All content on the platform, including the video-on-demand library, will be free to users who register.

FEI.tv’s usual output consists of live streams all major FEI Series and Championships, with an extensive range of replays, special features and historic events. The service has previously made some Grand Prix and youth events, along with the FEI Equestrian World magazine, available on a free-to-view basis.

The FEI said today that it would provide “free access to video archive footage to TV broadcasters in EBU [European Broadcasting Union] member territories across Europe through its partnership with EBU, and to key territories in the rest of the world via its partnership with IMG”.

Straus added: “Our broadcast partners are struggling to fill their air-time without live sport, so this initiative has been put in place to ensure that they have access to top equestrian footage and, together, we can keep our fans around the world happy with their daily dose of equestrian content.”

The FEI’s rights agreements with the EBU and IMG run until the end of 2022.

The move by the FEI follows similar initiatives taken by other summer Olympic international sports federations. These include Fifa, football’s world governing body, which is showing full re-runs of classic World Cup matches on social media and has been distributing free archive content to its rights-holding broadcasters.

The Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH), hockey’s world governing body, has removed geo-blocking restrictions on full re-runs of FIH Hockey Pro League matches and is also producing various additional programmes for distribution among its rights-holding broadcasters.

Ahead of the Covid-19 outbreak, the FEI had budgeted for a total of CHF30.2m in commercial revenues in 2020, with the lion’s share continuing to stem from sponsorship agreements. Outlining the figures at November’s FEI General Assembly in Moscow, the FEI provided a breakdown of CHF27.1m (or 89.7 per cent) from sponsorship revenue and CHF3.1m (10.3 per cent) from broadcast revenue.