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BeIN Sports, Mediapro Snag UEFA Champions League from 2018

Variety logo Variety 7/19/2017 John Hopewell
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MADRID — Confirming one of the key content deals of 2017 for Spain, BeIN Sports and Mediapro announced Wednesday that they have acquired in exclusivity for Spain all UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches over the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-2012 seasons.

The games will be aired on beIN Sports, the joint venture of the Qatari-owned beIN Media Group and Mediapro launched in Spain in 2015 and carried by major pay TV operators in Spain: Movistar +, Vodafone, Orange, Telecable and Deion Comunicaciones.

BeIN Sports already has rights to nearly all matches from both competitions from the 2015-16 to 2017-18 season. This time round, however, beIN Sports will carry all matches, nixing a free-to-air game screened on Tuesday nights.

Given Spain’s dominance of the UEFA Champions League, which Spanish clubs have won four times in the last five years – Real Madrid alone three times – this is a key deal for Spain. With Real Madrid, Barcelona F.C. and Atletico de Madrid among the four-to-five favorites in Europe to reach at least the semi-final stage of the competition, two games will be broadcast at 7.00 pm in Spain to try to avoid last season’s clash of major games at the classic 8.45 pm slot. Two Spanish teams will only play at the same time if five clubs make the initial group stage.

No figure was given for the UEFA-beIN Sports/Mediapro deal.

Accounting for 60% of pay TV subscribers in Spain, Movistar + lost out in the bidding for the new rights. The large question show much it and other operators will now have to pay for a new round of UEFA rights via continued carriage of beIN Sports.

Pay TV penetration in Spain remains relatively low, at only 31% of households, said Richard Broughton, research director at London-based Ampere Analysis.

In the case of tying down rights, Movistar + would, however, have had to have offered them to pay TV rivals at a fair market price, observing an anti-trust ruling introduced to allow Movistar + to buy dominant Spanish pay TV Canal Plus. One reason for its drive into producing original drama series, on which it is allowed to retain exclusive rights.

The migration to pay TV of key soccer rights is a trend seen in other markets. “While Spain has been behind the trend of other markets it’s in line with general developments,” Broughton said.

Another large question is how pay TV only may drive up its penetration in Spain, or affect fan bases.

For Broughton, “there is some evidence from other markets where rights have gone pay only that younger consumers are put off or never initiated into paying for sport content so they are less interested.

He added: “The effect is subtle but we can pick it up in some of our data with younger consumers.”

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