Belgian clubs seek more time on TV rights award as list shortens
By Martin Ross
Clubs from Belgian soccer’s top-tier Jupiler Pro League are to reconvene on 2 May to discuss the award of domestic broadcast rights from 2017-18 onwards.
The Belgian clubs gathered yesterday to discuss second-round bids submitted by broadcasters on 13 April for the rights, but have decided to push back the decision.
First-round bids for the live rights were submitted by Eleven Sports Network, the pay-TV broadcaster, Eurosport, the Discovery-owned sports broadcaster, and the incumbent non-exclusive rights-holders Proximus, Telenet and Voo, the trio of telecoms operators that offer subscription TV services.
However, Eurosport is not thought to be among those still vying for the rights after the second-round bids were lodged, leaving Eleven Sports in a battle with the telecoms operators for the rights from 2017-18 to 2019-20 in a tender process being run by the league and MP & Silva, the agency advising on the invitation to tender.
The league last month expressed its satisfaction with the 10 “financial and qualitative” offers received for the various live, highlights and clips packages.
Pro League and MP & Silva are looking to drive up competition for the rights, after Proximus (then known as Belgacom), Telenet and Voo teamed up last time around to sign non-exclusive agreements and keep the price down to a total of €60 million (now $65.3 million) per season.
The league appointed MP & Silva in 2014 in a six-year deal covering domestic and international rights to all matches. The contract with the agency is worth a guaranteed sum of €70 million per season from 2014-15 to 2016-17, and then €80 million per season for the following three years.
Orange, another telecoms operator, has also lodged an offer for the rights, according to reports in the Belgian press, while public-service broadcaster RTBF and commercial network RTL are said to be in the running for the French-language highlights. RTBF and VTM, the Flemish-language commercial network, currently hold the highlights rights.
Eurosport has increasingly targeted premium local content under the ownership of Discovery, and landed rights in Belgium to tennis’ Wimbledon in 2015 (the first country in which the broadcaster had shown the UK’s grand slam event).
The broadcaster’s bid for the rights brought it into competition with the carriage operators, some of which - including Proximus and Telenet - carry the Eurosport channels.
|Rights packages on offer in Jupiler Pro League invitation to tender|
|Package 1||Live rights to all Jupiler Pro League matches to be broadcast on a platform neutral basis (including TV)|
|Package 2||Live rights to all Jupiler Pro League matches to be broadcast solely via internet and mobile|
|Package 3||Exclusive live rights to the Super Cup|
|Package 4||Internet and mobile rights to near-live clips (in-game clips of no more than 20 seconds) and delayed clips (up to 3 minutes) of all matches|
|Package 5||Exclusive rights to weekend highlights shown on free-to-air TV|
|Package 6||Exclusive rights to Monday evening magazine show|
|Source: Pro League|
Pro League launched the rights auction in February, offering six packages to the market (see table above) after receiving the approval of Belgium’s competition authorities, but left the telecoms operators unhappy after stipulating that broadcasters owned by telecoms firms could not acquire exclusive rights, while standalone broadcasters could.
Eleven Sports Network lodged an offer for exclusive rights in the first round and is thought to be looking at setting up dedicated league channels and then refinancing its investment through carriage deals with the telecoms operators.
The packages for the Jupiler Pro League and Super Cup are being sold separately on a per-language basis, as well as in both French and Dutch.
Packages 1 and 2 both offered live rights to all league matches, albeit across different technologies, with the first package comprising platform-neutral rights (including television) and the second restricted to internet and mobile technologies.
There are no changes to the kick-off times in the next rights cycle, with the schedule remaining as follows: Fridays at 8.30pm (CET); Saturdays at 6pm, 8pm and 8.30pm; and Sundays at 2.30pm, 6pm and 8pm.