Friday, January 18, 2008

Cross-channel rights to Dutch soccer premier division

The Dutch soccer world is in a stage of excitement, as the tender to the broadcast rights of the premier division has been closed. For the Dutch soccer team the rights mean revenues, while for the viewer/user it means access to the summaries and games.

The soccer games have become a cross-channel rights circus. Besides the rights to the premier league games of men, the rights are also sold to the games of women. The cross-channel rights concern television and radio over cable, IPTV and mobile. A complicating factor is the formats: previews, live games, summaries and archived games.

The participants in this tender have not been announced, but there were six major candidates for the all over rights. The Dutch public broadcast NOS lost two years ago the summaries to the new broadcast station Talpa/Ten. Versatel, now Tele2 had the rights to the full games and shared the rights amongst others with the telecom incumbent KPN. But after two years the scene has changed dramatically. Talpa/Ten has terminated broadcasting and the rights went to Versatel hoped to pick up 100.000 IPTV/ADSL clients with the premier league soccer, but this did not work out at all.

Now the potential bidders limited themselves to six candidates: NOS, Tele2, KPN, RTL and SBS. RTL and SBS have not tendered, but a novice surprised everyone: Zesko, a combination of cable operators (Casema, @Home and Multikabel). This conglomerate does not cover the entire country with its cable infrastructure, but to fill some gaps they went into a deal with Canal Digitaal, a satellite distributor of movies, sports and digital channels. It is taken for granted that no foreign media party has turned in a bid for the rights.

The rights have been eagerly fought over the years. When the public broadcast company lost the rights to Talpa, Talpa paid 35 million euro for it. Yet the broadcast station lost at least a half million viewers due to the change in format and the commercials during the broadcasts. This round of bids might top the 100 million euro, which novice Zesko is said to be prepared to pay. Just twenty years ago the rights were worth 1,4 million euro.

The Premier League combination, which is selling the rights, will take its time for a decision. They have had two bad experiences in the past years. The telecom company Versatel/Tele2 wanted to use soccer to draw in new clients and when this did not work it started to sell out its rights to the digital channel of KPN. And the Talpa/Ten transfer of the rights to RTL has not brought the premier league more exposure; in fact due to the change of stations people have lost track of the premier league. So the question for the premier league combination is now, whether they will accept the high bid of the cable operators’ consortium or whether they will cut the package up and offer it to separate companies, who in turn can make their own distribution combines.

From the content point of view this bidding is interesting. We are talking about highly appreciated sports content. There was a day that on Sunday night at 7 o’clock no less than 4 million sat ready on the couch for the summaries; now only 3 million find the proper broadcast station. So why should the price go up, when the number of viewers is going down. On the other hand live games will be able to be viewed with a set-top box or by IPTV subscription. So there is certainty about part of the revenues.

So far soccer content has been a cross-channel commodity for the Premier League combination and the bidders. No cross-media potential has been seen yet in soccer content. The stress of soccer content has been on distribution; only the larger clubs have been able to form a community and have their virtual club house.

Blog Posting Number: 981

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