Spain’s football league, La Liga, has become the latest major rights owner to plan the launch of an over-the-top streaming service. The service, which will launch in August, will feature multiple sports and will be free to view.
According to La Liga president Javier Tebas in a press interview this week, matches from the top division of La Liga will not be included ‘in the short term’ but could become part of the service five or more years down the line. The LaLiga4Sports initiative was set up by the league last year in partnership with 64 Spanish sports federations with the aim of develop their digital strategy. The new service, which Tebas said would feature live and on demand content, would include a range of sports including field hockey, swimming and gymnastics, among others.
La Liga content could include archive coverage of matches, interviews and reports. Overage of live matches is likely to remain on third party subscription services in the short term, with a move onto La Liga’s OTT service to be ‘determined by the market’, said Tebas.
He added that a new tender for rights to La Liga starting from the 2019/20 season would be launched between March and May this year. The main live rights packages in Spain are currently held by Mediapro and Telefonica.
ESPN is planning to launch a standalone, direct-to-consumer service in the US in the spring. The service, branded as ESPN Plus, will include authenticated access to live streams of ESPN channels, scores and highlights, ESPN archive films and other content like podcasts as well as ‘thousands’ of live events not covered by the linear channels for an additional subscription fee of $4.99 a month.
Formula One is relaunching its online services this year, including live on-board coverage of races, commentary, support events and video archive. The subscription service is likely to be geo-blocked in countries like the UK where the event is well covered on TV and reports have indicated that it may be available in only five countries – the USA, Mexico, Germany, France and the Netherlands – when it launches next month.
It was also reported this week that the Premier League is considering a plan to bundle the two unsold 20-match packages for the 2019-2021 cycle together with online near-live rights into a single package, with the aim of strengthening its appeal to potential online bidders like Amazon. This follows the award of the first batch of rights to Sky and BT last week.
All of the major US sports leagues have all launched their own online subscription services. These are geared to generating additional revenue from out of market games in the US, and reaching fans in other countries where the full range of games are not televised.
The La Liga initiative is very different because it will be free-to-view. The league already operates an official YouTube channel in partnership with Mediapro. The channel, which offers match highlights, has more than 1.9 million subscribers. This means the league has a good idea of the worldwide fan base for its coverage, and how it can be monetised via advertising and sponsorship rather than via subscription.
Sports rights owners are still an experimental stage when it comes to launching their events online. The leading sports are still generating most of their rights revenue from licensing rights to pay TV and free TV operators and this is likely to continue. Declining TV audiences, cord-cutting and the growth of online viewing are all causing a change of thinking, and more are now looking for ways of reaching consumers direct.Channels and Programming Intelligence will look at this area in more detail in a new insight report out next month.