Global SVOD operators are expanding their sports content offerings. Amazon just bought UK Champions League rights, Apple signed US baseball and global football (soccer) deals, Paramount and partners won the Indian Premier League cricket auction, while Netflix unsuccessfully bid on the US Formula One licence.

In the US, streamers feed an already very competitive market, while in Europe they could potentially relaunch inflation for rights after a period of stagnation. Next moves by Warner Bros. Discovery (BT Sport and Eurosport) and Disney will be critical. Sky and Canal+ could be facing upward cost pressures.

If rights fragmentation were to increase, deeper aggregation and bundling may be necessary to avoid shrinking the consumer pool while the pressure to consolidate may intensify. Intriguingly, global rights deals may become more likely.

Reportedly, BT Sport is about to seal a deal to extend its coverage of the revamped Champions League until 2027. Amazon is going to step in with a weekly game, and the BBC will get the rights to the highlights.

In France, Canal+ has outbid Amazon to claim the full rights package thanks to a bid that has grown the total value of the rights by 28%.                                  

With Canal+’s football content secured, the upcoming Ligue 1 auction may struggle to find bidders, a fate threatening other short-sighted leagues.

The tender for UK rights to the revamped Champions League (CL) and Europa League is now underway. The incumbent, BT Sport, is likely to want to retain full rights and we would expect it to be prepared to pay a flat-to-modest increase

English clubs' recent strong performance in the Champions League may make the rights seem better value, but this won't necessarily translate to inflation going forward

Amazon and DAZN may be interested, but disciplined bidders are unlikely to push up prices

 

With more clubs, more games and no long Christmas break, the revamped Champions League (CL) will test its value to broadcasters with a tender that has just been released in France, over two years before the cycle begins

UEFA is banking on the rivalry between Canal+/BeIN, the ongoing rights-holders, and Amazon, broadcaster of Ligue 1 in France, and of the CL in Germany and Italy

Prime’s economics point to Amazon sticking to cautious, ‘value’-driven bidding in France. It could expand its limited sports line up in the UK and Spain with the CL, but only if current licensees BT/Warner Bros. Discovery and Telefónica take a step back from 100% coverage

Whilst we remain sceptical of the churn reduction benefits of fixed/mobile convergence, the pandemic and a more astute approach from the operators is enhancing the case for it in the UK.

Creating the impression of a giveaway whilst minimizing the effective discount is key, as is extracting any loyalty and cost benefits.

Even if well executed, any upsides are likely to be modest. Operators are right to keep discounts to a minimum and to avoid M&A premia predicated on fixed/mobile convergence synergies.

BT has entered exclusive discussions with Discovery to fold BT Sport into a joint venture including the UK version of Eurosport, ending sale discussions with DAZN.

The upgraded sports service will allow Discovery—soon merging with WarnerMedia—to considerably boost its content line-up in a genre where rivals Disney and Netflix are absent.

The ecosystem—the Premier League, UEFA, and Sky—will likely welcome the deal.

With Comcast’s acquisition of Sky confirmed and Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox on the path to regulatory clearance, how will the relationships of the various parties evolve?

Disney is betting on a standalone SVOD service in the US. However, its content deal with Sky in Europe is lucrative, and the performance of DisneyLife in the UK suggests its US strategy may not fit elsewhere.

Sky’s relationships with Disney and Fox are crucial to its business. A joint pursuit to maximise returns from IP and distribution in Europe would be economically efficient for both Comcast/Sky and Disney/Fox.

Drawn by its rapid growth and enviably youthful audience profile, incumbent broadcasters are paying increased attention to esports and its followers

Viewership of esports on UK broadcasters’ linear channels is low, with consumption on their online platforms likely the same. The market’s fragmented nature and global audience, along with the dominance of Twitch—and to a lesser extent YouTube—makes this unlikely to change

Broadcasters’ low-cost approach has primarily benefited competition organisers and games publishers. For broadcasters to create real revenues, massive upfront investment would be needed, with the risk of failure high

Audiobooks are growing fast, driven by smartphone adoption and better supply, as well as interest from people who don’t usually buy books, such as young men

The sector is dominated by the presence of Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publisher/retailer, which has driven growth of audiobooks but put publishers under pressure. Its strategy is a lesson in Amazon’s approach to media

Audio is an opportunity to sell to new customers, but publishers must acquire and use rights responsibly, and experiment while not letting the audio tail wag the print dog

Many European telecoms operators are pursuing a fixed/mobile convergence strategy on the pretext that the addition of mobile reduces churn. We see no evidence of churn reduction from this strategy

Discounts required to encourage take-up of fixed/mobile services are often value-destructive, even before competitor reaction: a 10% bundle discount necessitates a 2ppt improvement in churn to wash its face economically. M&A premia on the basis of convergence synergies raise the hurdle even higher

Most UK operators offer very limited discounts on fixed/mobile bundles for now, sensibly focusing on enhanced services. Vodafone is the most aggressive, albeit less so than it is elsewhere. All UK players should hope that it stays this way