SportsMax and Flow to share Uefa club rights in Caribbean
By Jonathan Rest
SportsMax, the cable sports broadcaster in the Caribbean, and Flow Sports, the television service of Cable & Wireless Communications, are to share rights in the region to European club soccer's Uefa Champions League and Europa League.
The three-season deal runs from 2018-19 to 2020-21, with SportsMax and Flow equally sharing coverage of matches from both competitions. The contract includes highlights and in-match clips.
Every Champions League and Europa League match will be made available for viewing in the Caribbean, with Uefa introducing two separate kick-off times for the elite competition next season: 7pm (CET) and 9pm. Two games per match day will be played at the earlier slot, with the remaining six games starting two hours later.
An invitation to submit offers in the Caribbean for the Champions League and Europa League was launched by the Team Marketing agency at the end of February, but the complex nature of the rights split has taken time for the deal to be signed off.
Rights in the Caribbean were sold separately from those in USA this time around (the two markets were combined in previous rights cycles), with Team and Uefa no doubt influenced by intensified competition in the region. Since it last went to market, Cable & Wireless launched Flow armed with rights to England’s Premier League (to 2018-19).
In late 2013, Fox Sports, the US-based cable broadcaster, retained its exclusive grip on rights in both USA and the Caribbean to the Champions League and Europa League, and is currently approaching the end of those three-season deals. SportsMax currently shows Champions League matches after picking up sub-licensed rights.
Uefa said the partnership with Flow and SportsMax “represents an exciting opportunity to grow the Caribbean fan base and enable viewership in new and innovative ways.“
Earlier this year, Olly McIntosh, chief executive of SportsMax, warned Uefa that, despite increased competition for rights in the Caribbean through the emergence of Flow, there was a 'ceiling' for rights fees, with the market not big enough for broadcasters to be able “to monetise their outlay.”
He told Sportcal: “We have been operating for 15 years now in the region. We have seen increased competition from non-resident broadcasters like ESPN and Fox, and now Flow is a local, regional broadcaster competing with us. We think it’s good for the market. It means more sport on TV, and it’s obviously good for rights sellers as well, trying to drive value up in a bidding war.
“So the dynamics have changed a bit, but the important thing that we have realised and others are realising is that it is also a finite market. It is not a large market, so from our point of view there is a ceiling as to what the investment levels are in content. It has to make sense economically. It is not open season and open cheque books.”
He added: “It’s a business opportunity for them [Uefa], like for all the other rights owners. They’re looking at the fact that the market is growing. We’ve fallen prey to the success we have had in terms of developing the market. Before us there wasn’t a market, now we’ve shown the ability to operate a sports channel and sports media business in the region. So what comes behind that? Competition, and carving up specific rights for the Caribbean.”