Speaking at Soccerex Europe last month, the Portuguese Football Federation’s (FPF) channel director Nuno Santos was abundantly clear when asked if the launch of its very own television channel, Canal 11, would usher in a media rights charge from the national soccer governing body.
“We are a football federation with a channel, not a channel with a football federation,” he was quick to point out. An effective downplaying of what Canal 11 is and stands for, but what Santos did highlight was the extent of the in-house network’s programming.
Distributed domestically via pay-TV on NOS as well as by telecommunication brands Meo and Vodafone, Calnal 11 is set to air more than 600 live matches per season.
Featured on the channel will be live match broadcasts featuring Portuguese soccer’s national women’s, youth, beach and futsal teams, plus games from the third-tier league Campeonato de Portugal. It is a list many dedicated domestic soccer channels would envy. The hefty offering even got the seal of approval from Cristiano Ronaldo no less, with the national team star featuring in a promotional clip for Canal 11 when it went live on 1st August.
But the channel’s programming comes with a different goal in mind. With no rights to the Premeira Liga or Segunda Liga, the nation’s top two club competitions, or national men's soccer matches, Canal 11 is not plotting to take all broadcast rights for Portuguese soccer under its wing. Rather, the emphasis is to ‘promote, protect and develop football,’ according to FPF president Fernando Gomes.
For a nation whose men’s senior national team head into next year’s 2020 Uefa European Football Championship as holders, coupled with a rich soccer heritage, it is easy to see why the FPF has handed Canal 11 a remit to promote the next generation is the name of the game.
It means competitions which are perhaps not conducive to large TV audiences now have a platform to gain traction and sees the national soccer body trying to to bring its viewers the future today.
Two months on from Canal 11’s launch, SportsPro grabbed a quick chat with Santos to get his thoughts on the launch and what lies ahead for the channel.
Have your aims changed since Canal 11 launched?
There are no significant changes on that because our proposals are clear. When we launched we’d done our homework, I started in September and October 2018, so it was very clear when we went on air in August what kind of product we wanted. We knew how the Portuguese landscape looked, the competition and how it complemented other sports channels in the Portuguese market. I’m very satisfied not only with the results so far, I think it’s too early to say we’re okay or we’re not okay, but we have good signs.
Can you see other federations following Canal 11’s example?
I believe so, but we shall see. One of the reasons for us to put the channel on air is because there are hundreds of matches, dozens of competitions that you cannot watch on TV. The youth competitions, women’s matches in Portugal, things like that, you couldn’t watch them regularly. We can do that, so we decided to do it. That’s what makes our channel unique, it’s different from the others completely.
The Portuguese national futsal team's games will be aired via Canal 11
What were the biggest challenges getting Canal 11 to launch?
When you launch a new project you always have operational challenges, choosing the team to develop, there are always lots of challenges. Based on my experience, we knew we were going to have a very busy August and September, it’s part of the process, you don’t worry about it. It’s the fourth time I’ve done something similar and it’s always the same challenges, even in different times. It’s very different to do it in 1992, in 2001 or in 2019 because technology changes, the mind changes, people are different, but there are the same kind of problems.
Regarding the content we have on air, the shows we create and put out, I would say that the grid that we create is one that makes sense for the start of the channel. But even when you do your homework, which we did, to be absolutely honest you never know what the reaction of the audience will be. You always need to wait for that reaction and then act according to that.
Would you consider acquiring further broadcast rights for higher tier competitions in the future?
The answer to that is no. If you ask where we’re going to be in ten years of course I don’t know but it’s not something for us now.
If major rights are not a goal for the Canal 11, how will the channel grow?
We believe that with the products we have, the competitions and projects we have in the pipeline, that it’s possible to reach the goals in the next 18 months that we have in our plan. Some I can’t say now because they involve third parties. But we want to be relevant in the Portuguese market, to be distinctive from other channels, to aggregate the local communities and to have more kids playing football.
If you asked me what the main reason was for creating this channel, I would say we need to have more boy and girls playing football.