Piracy threat­ens fu­ture of sports broad­cast­ing

Oman Daily Observer - - PERSPECTIVE -

Piracy poses an ex­is­ten­tial prob­lem for broad­cast rights hold­ers but there are no signs that live sport is los­ing its glit­ter­ing al­lure, ac­cord­ing to Eleven Sports chief ex­ec­u­tive Marc Wat­son. The com­pany — a rel­a­tive up­start in a cut-throat field — has got its hands on a num­ber of high-pro­file events this year, adding the UK and Ir­ish rights to the PGA Cham­pi­onship, La Liga and Serie A to a grow­ing port­fo­lio. Founded by Leeds United owner An­drea Radriz­zani in 2015, it holds the rights for a range of sports in 11 mar­kets, but Sin­ga­pore has proved a ma­jor headache.

“Piracy is ev­ery­where... It is an ex­is­ten­tial prob­lem for broad­cast­ers,” Wat­son said in an in­ter­view at the com­pany’s Lon­don head­quar­ters, though he said the ex­tent of the prob­lem varies from place to place.

“Piracy is ram­pant in Sin­ga­pore. It is a very law-abid­ing na­tion but piracy is pretty much treated there as le­git­i­mate.

“The lev­els of piracy are hard to make the busi­ness work but it was not only us who suf­fered.” Wat­son, who joined Eleven Sports in 2015 af­ter a suc­cess­ful seven-year spell at BT Sport, dur­ing which the com­pany ate into Sky’s port­fo­lio by muscling in on the Pre­mier League, said the so­lu­tion is to of­fer a good-value prod­uct, not to fight through the courts.

“In the end the an­swer is about ac­ces­si­bil­ity for con­sumers. It is about mak­ing good-value prod­ucts avail­able ev­ery­where to con­sumers at a rea­son­able price where they want it, when they want it,” he said.

Wat­son believes the mu­sic in­dus­try has man­aged to com­bat il­le­gal stream­ing of con­tent by go­ing down that route.

“Sports rights own­ers and fed­er­a­tions them­selves need to back that by sup­port­ing rights hold­ers to make avail­able con­tent ev­ery­where at all times and at rea­son­able prices,” he said.

Wat­son, a lawyer by pro­fes­sion, says his bold ap­proach at both BT Sport and now Eleven Sports is born of ne­ces­sity.

“I am def­i­nitely pre­pared to dis­rupt the sta­tus quo if I think there is good busi­ness in it,” he said. “I did it at BT be­cause it re­ally needed at that mo­ment to grow its busi­ness.

“We are do­ing it here be­cause of that. If you are a new en­try you have to be pre­pared to be a dis­rup­tor as there is no other way of en­ter­ing an ex­ist­ing es­tab­lished mar­ket­place but to be a dis­rup­tor.” De­spite its sta­tus as a jewel in the broad­cast­ing crown, the ram­pant in­fla­tion as­so­ci­ated with Pre­mier League rights has slowed.

In Fe­bru­ary, Sky and BT paid a com­bined £4.46 bil­lion ($5.9 bil­lion) for do­mes­tic rights to Eng­land’s top foot­ball tier for 20192022, sig­nif­i­cantly less than the £5.1 bil­lion they forked out in the pre­vi­ous auc­tion.


A mi­cro­phone of the bein Sports tele­vi­sion chan­nel dur­ing a UEFA Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nal foot­ball match at Stade Louis II Sta­dium in Monaco.

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