Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga, has underlined the need for online retail giant Amazon and other major streaming platforms to provide consumer data details as part of any rights agreement.
Following on from Amazon’s acquisition of a package of domestic English Premier League rights (from 2019-20 to 2020-21) and a slice of Uefa Champions League rights in Germany (from 2021-22 to 2023-24), Tebas expressed LaLiga’s willingness to sell rights to the platform.
However, any such deal should not be “under any conditions” according to the recently re-elected LaLiga president.
Speaking to a group of journalists in London upon the UK launch of the LaLigaTV linear television channel, he said: “We’ve seen Amazon buy rights with the [Premier League] Boxing Day matches in the UK and some Champions League rights in Germany. The problem in engaging with Amazon or another streaming platform is that we need to look at data.
“It’s a challenge. We must know our viewers very well. We know who goes to our stadiums, if they go five or six times or if they buy beer. But the largest number of fans is those who pay to view our games and we don’t know those fans. Those who have to pay us are the ones who know these fans and that’s not the right relationship.
“Amazon could be there as a buyer [for rights] but we need to take another step as we wish to know about the behaviour of these millions of viewers.
“We can’t sell to platforms like Amazon and others under any conditions. Let’s not forget that Amazon relies and lives off data. They know everything about people who buy through Amazon.”
LaLiga already has a direct-to-consumer relationship through LaLigaSportsTV, although there seems little chance of top-tier LaLiga Santander matches being streamed live on the league’s own OTT platform when the next rights cycle takes effect in 2022-23.
Asked by SportBusiness if the OTT platform could provide a viable solution to showcase live matches, Tebas said: “We’ve been working on OTT for several years now and the main advantage of OTT is knowing your users and their behaviour. We’re analysing the behaviour of the users who watch sport and how we can influence them so that they continue watching different sports with us.
“I don’t rule out the possibility of broadcasting [top-tier live] football on that platform but it’s not a priority for us right now. If that happens one day then we need to be prepared for that.
“OTT isn’t built in a day. It’s not about having an OTT platform ready for next season. You need to be able to prepare a competitive OTT [platform] and you need to know how the world of data and analytics works for at least three years beforehand.”
LaLigaSportsTV, which Tebas says now has 600,000 registered users, offers free live coverage of various sports, including matches of the ASOBAL Handball league and Spain’s second-tier basketball division Liga LEB Oro, plus sports such as badminton, petanque and weightlifting.
It streams live matches from Spanish football’s second-tier Segunda División (LaLiga Smartbank), but behind a paywall. Short highlights from Spain’s top two soccer leagues are also offered on the platform.
Speaking four months ago, Tebas said that LaLiga had invested €7.5m ($8.3m) in the OTT platform, comprised of €4m for buying content and €3.5m for IT infrastructure.
UK market ‘important but not super important’
LaLiga and the Mediapro agency have sold international rights to some OTT players during the current cycle (2019-20 to 2021-22), including DAZN and Eleven Sports.
LaLiga’s OTT move in the UK was not successful given the demise of Eleven in that market, chiefly caused by the lack of appetite among dominant pay-television duo Sky and BT to agree linear carriage deals.
Eleven initially agreed a three-season deal, from 2018-19 to 2020-21, replacing Sky as the rights-holder, but held contract renegotiations with LaLiga at the end of 2018 to end the agreement amid the financial difficulties suffered by its UK business.
Subscription broadcaster Premier Sports subsequently acquired the live LaLiga rights in the UK and Ireland from 2019-20 to 2021-22 and teamed up with the league on the launch of LaLigaTV in the two countries.
Discussing the re-awarding of the rights, Tebas said that the experience had primarily taught him that Sky and BT “have decided that they’re going to pay less for sport”.
On the specific case of Eleven Sports, he noted: “When it comes to Eleven Sports, there is OTT erupting in the market. Perhaps the Eleven model came too soon in the UK. The Eleven model works very well in other countries, for instance in Portugal or in Belgium. We’re in Poland [with Eleven Sports] too and it’s worked really well.
“We need to look at each market and the circumstances. The broadcasters and level of competition are different in each country…this means that sometimes we may find ourselves in the situation such as the one that happened with Eleven [in the UK].”
He concluded: “We know that the UK market is important, [but] it’s not super important. If it had been a super important market then it could really have damaged us. But we must learn that the transition to OTT is something that we need to be careful about.”
LaLigaTV launched as a linear channel on the Sky platform last week and a carriage agreement has also been struck with UK pay-television operator Virgin Media. The channel is priced at £5.99 per month (€5.99 per month in Ireland) but is free to Premier Sports subscribers.
In addition to a traditional rights fee arrangement, Premier Sports and LaLiga share LaLigaTV subscription revenues in the UK and Ireland as part of their deal.