Tebas tells TV operators: If LaLiga rights are too expensive, don't buy them
Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga, is bullish about the revenue prospects for domestic television coverage of Spain’s top soccer league in the next cycle, claiming that even if there are no bids in a forthcoming tender it has "other strategies" to ensure it meets targets.
LaLiga is preparing to launch an invitation to tender in Spain for the rights from the 2019-20 season onwards, and expects to generate €1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) per year from new deals, plus €1 billion per year from international rights.
However, Spanish telecoms operators Telefónica, Vodafone and Orange have expressed concerns over the rising cost of soccer, which they presently show through direct or carriage deals, raising the possibility they will not be involved in the auction.
Tebas is unperturbed, telling reporters in Madrid yesterday: “If it seems expensive, then you need not buy it. We will pursue other strategies and other paths if that’s the case [they do not bid].
“If it’s so expensive, then I don’t want to be a participant in the bankruptcy of Telefónica.”
At present, Movistar Plus, the satellite and IPTV pay-TV service of Telefónica, and Mediapro, the Spanish sports rights agency and production company, and its pay-TV partner BeIN Sports, hold the major live rights packages for LaLiga in Spain in three-year deals worth €750 million and €1.9 billion, respectively.
However, Telefónica chief operating officer Ángel Vilá said recently that the company may not renew its contract with Mediapro to carry the BeIN Sports channels that offer Uefa Champions League matches, saying it was “going to act with financial discipline.”
He also raised doubts about participating in the LaLiga auction, saying: “The key issue is the conditions of minimum prices.”
Citing recent soccer league rights processes in other countries, Vilá said: “There have been auctions in the United Kingdom and Portugal with prices down, which is the direction in which it has to go.”
Tebas remains confident LaLiga will hit its revenue goals, saying: “The rights are worth more [than at present], that’s why we’ve set such a price point. The prices aren’t guesswork, they are calculated based on data.
“This includes the number of subscribers, as well as the pricing policies of other leagues.”
He also questioned whether the leading TV operator could afford to be without Spain’s most popular sport, saying: “Since football is so important, if Telefónica has it and distributes it, everyone will have games.
“Buyers always want to get something cheaper, the only group that can afford to buy the rights is Telefónica. These companies say different things in public, it’s not that football is expensive.
“The market continues to sell more and more football, there is a demand for it.”
If it does not receive acceptable offers for the rights going forward, LaLiga always has the option of showing matches on an in-house platform that could then be made available to carriers.
Last month, Tebas announced plans for a new free-to-view and multi-sport over-the-top TV platform.
This is set to include a variety of LaLiga programming and possibly live matches from the second-tier Segunda Division.
However, the league president said that it would only provide a home for top-flight soccer games in the “medium- or long-term.”
• The BeIN LaLiga channel attracted its highest audience of the season for league leaders Barcelona's 1-0 defeat of second-placed Atlético Madrid on Sunday.
An average of 2.2 million viewers, 14.6-per-cent share, tuned in for the game, which saw Barcelona stretch their lead at the top of the table to eight points courtesy of a free-kick goal from Lionel Messi.
The audience peaked at 2.6 million, a 17.2-per-cent share.