Eleven Sports, founded in 2015 by Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani and since launched in 11 countries, made waves in May 2018 by purchasing the UK broadcasting rights to Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga football – prising them away from BT and Sky respectively.
The company, which currently offers non-commercial subscriptions in the UK ranging from £5.99 per month to £59.99 per year, has 17m worldwide subscribers across more than 150 distribution platforms.
However, despite the ability to harness the latest online streaming technology such as Twitch, concerns have grown among the UK’s sport pub community as live matches from Spain and Italy’s top flights – respective homes to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – haven’t yet been made available to them. This is despite increasing demand for continental football among pub customers and both league’s seasons getting under way in recent weeks.
Possible partnerships with Sky or BT
Richard Young of Eleven Sports highlights: “We've spoken to some of the pub groups with a large number of premises showing sports in the UK. They've told us that there is demand and that a lot of them really like the rights that we've got.
“We're showing a huge amount of live matches – we know and pubs know that it's live that really works. When you've got Messi, Gareth Bale or Ronaldo playing every weekend then there's a lot of interest – especially as we typically skew younger. There's a real appetite for the content we've got.”
Yet before Ronaldo, Messi and co can once again grace pub screens, Young states that a key hurdle for Eleven Sports to overcome is the broadcast technology in pubs – which at present doesn’t lend itself to live sport streams.
This means that the company, which since its inception has broadcast live sport via streaming services, will explore partnerships with either Sky or BT to potentially make matches available via satellite.
"Residential is very important because that's where we reach the majority of our fans,” says Young. “But we would definitely love to do something to enable fans and customers in pubs and clubs to access the channel. The challenge is really around infrastructure.
“Longer term, the infrastructure in pubs will be better suited to deliver these kind of solutions, but we probably take for granted that's its very easy in your house to stream from your tablet, chuck it onto a big screen and have it look fantastic, and there's a hell of a lot of technology that has made that happen.
“One of the issues is that to work with pubs in the current way that they’re working you need to have your channel distributed on satellite.
“The main distributors are Sky and BT Sport for pubs so we'd be open to doing something as it is important.”
Everything in its place
At this stage, there is no indication of when matches will become available and how much they will cost because Eleven Sports considers the range of on-trade options available to them.
"It really depends on the commercial and distribution model we go down,” says Young.
“Obviously our concern is that while we would want it to make sense and be affordable to pubs. If we were doing a deal with Sky or BT's commercial team they would ultimately be responsible for setting the pricing.
“If we were to go a different route and there was a scenario where you could go direct to pubs, then we have to look at a commercial model and a subscription model.
“We haven't at this point announced that we're doing that and therefore we wouldn't be able to discuss any specific models or rates.
“I do understand that people would love us to be able to say 'yes we can do it tomorrow and here's the pricing' but it's just not there yet, even in terms of the practicalities.
“We're trying to walk through this at the right pace and then hopefully deliver a solution when we've got something that works for everybody.
"We have important rights such as La Liga, Serie A and a bunch of really exciting things coming soon. Our catchphrase is that we're 'for the fans' and we think that extends both to pubs and clubs as well as fans in the home.
“On our side, there's an absolute commitment that we'd love to do something.
“It's not our intention to disrupt the supply to pubs, there's an element of getting everything in its place.”
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