Israeli soccer finds OTT success without even launching a platform
As showcased previously by SportsPro, Israel is a tech-savvy nation with a thriving sports startup scene, so when Nicolas Lev, the chief executive of Israeli Professional Football Leagues (IPFL), first made noises about moving into OTT it made sense. What follows is a fascinating account of how the league leveraged that possibility into long-term security.
The previous IS₪126 million (US38.5 million) a year broadcast partnership between the IPFL, which manages the commercial rights to Israel’s top two soccer tiers, and Israeli pay-TV broadcaster Charlton expires at the end of the ongoing 2020/21 season.
Lev told Sportcal in July last year: “If there are enough participants then we will do a tender, if not it is not in our interest to go into a tender if there is only one participant.”
Ultimately the IPFL would go to market with a tender in January, but when it did not bring in sufficient bids the IPFL bet on itself and voted to pursue the creation of an OTT platform. That was in March.
Fast forward to April and despite some initial opposition to the OTT concept, the Israeli clubs had warmed to the idea of a DTC service, along with gaining a greater appreciation of their own value.
I understand that it was only when it became clear the Israeli clubs had unified behind the project and Charlton was about to lose its most valuable asset that the pay-TV network came back with an offer. Charlton’s ten-year, US$35.2 million a season deal - which met the IPFL’s reserve price - was announced on 13th April. Impressively, the second five years of that contract is an optional extension for the league where the value rises to US$36 million annually.
This is a fascinating development on a number of levels. Firstly, by all accounts, the planning of this new OTT service opened the eyes of the clubs to collecting actionable fan data for monetisation.
Perhaps more pertinently it shows how rights holders can create competition in a buyer’s market. In threatening to go DTC and taking steps in that direction, the IPFL created a rival for their content which Charlton then had to bid against. It meant the league was able to secure a long-term broadcast partnership, offering stability to the Israeli clubs in a period where rights fees globally are stagnating.
Take my money, please
Now going to the pub is back on the agenda here in the UK we all have something new to moan about. Whilst being able to enjoy a beer from the barrel again is great, what is not is the process of getting one. Every bar seems to have its own app and each has its own payment system, which is incredibly frustrating when after getting through a 15-minute sign-up process you are then asked to dig out your card details.
How does this relate to OTT? Well, an increasing number of streaming providers on both the rights holder and buy side have recognised this problem within their own platforms. Mobile-centric live platform Buzzer (which has now been launched for early access, FYI) made ease of payment one of its key principals.
DAZN has spent the last few months in Japan ensuring that its subscription can be paid for within users’ network contracts and now the NBA’s League Pass platform is doing similar. A deal with PM Connect means subscribers in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, South Africa, Spain and the UK, as well as select African countries, will soon be able to add League Pass to their carrier bill.
As an innovation this is not an incredibly new or ground breaking development, but in a world more and more driven by devices, knocking down barriers to consumption (and therefore payment) should be a priority.
Put some respect on the WSL
After the recent announcement of the Women’s Super League’s new domestic broadcast partnerships with the BBC and Sky Sports, a lot of discourse was on how good this is for women’s soccer and a boost to its appeal. Of course that is certainly true, but is this not also a win for broadcasters?
I was recently sent a study by consumer research platform RunRepeat which suggested that Sky and the BBC could be rewarded with bumper viewership for women’s soccer. Based on a survey of more than 5,000 soccer fans, the results suggested that if women’s soccer was more easily accessible on TV then viewership could increase by as much as 296.7 per cent in the UK and 304.6 per cent in the US, with that figure reaching 358.7 per cent in Europe.
For Sky, the WSL is a new product and for the BBC it is the first time the league will be consistently aired via its linear channels. I think it is fair to assume they are not acquiring these rights for charity, so let us also recognise the value the WSL has to offer too.
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Trends to keep an eye on
• Matchroom lands ‘nine-figure’ DAZN broadcast rights deal
• La Vuelta becomes first Grand Tour to launch Twitch channel
• ESPN to offer first NBA betting broadcast
• FuboTV nets US rights to South American 2022 World Cup qualifiers
• Hulu adds NFL Network and RedZone to live service
• Uncovering Triller Fight Club’s boxing blueprint
• How FuboTV plans to go further in the sports streaming space
• Nick Meacham | What is the ‘Spotify solution’ for solving piracy?
• Opinion | Knowing fans better than they know themselves is key for rights holders
Reports worth tracking
• MediaRadar | TV ad spend on sports YoY from 2019 to 2021
• Magnite | CTV in LATAM: The Future Forward
• Hub Entertainment Research | Smart TVs in majority of US homes
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