Uefa outlines OTT plans; Netflix not targeting live sport
Uefa is planning to launch its own over-the-top service that could provide a platform for non-premium soccer content, according to senior executive Guy-Laurent Epstein.
The European club competition season kicks off in earnest next week with the first matches in the group stages of the Uefa Champions League and Europa League and, while it is anticipated that established television broadcasters, albeit increasingly subscription ones, will remain the predominant home of such high-profile live games for the foreseeable future, the governing body sees opportunities elsewhere.
In an interview with Spanish sports website Palco23, Epstein (pictured), the marketing director of Uefa Events, said: “It’s not ready yet, but we are already building our own OTT platform to go really go further with the content.”
Uefa does not intend to undermine the value of media rights deals with traditional broadcasters, with Epstein saying: “We do not seek to compete with them, but to be complementary thanks to the wide range we have.”
The French official added that content on the OTT platform could include summaries, delayed games, behind-the-scenes footage, magazine programmes and indoor, women’s and youth competitions that do not enjoy the same level of exposure as men’s soccer.
Uefa and its broadcast partners have taken note of the moves into sport by digital platforms such as Amazon and Netflix, and, while still emphasising the importance of live content, are looking at ways of diversifying their offering.
Epstein said the OTT project “gives us the possibility to speak directly with the fans; it’s a massive change in the way we build our community.”
He added: “The media landscape has evolved a lot, and generates many opportunities to always be ‘on’ and have relevant content to offer.”
Although the European club competitions have gravitated towards pay-TV platforms in the major markets, Epstein sees no fall-off in the following, with a full slate of commercial partners (eight for the Champions League and six for the Europa League) now in place for the 2018-19 to 2020-21 season.
He said: “The current evolution of our environment tells us that digital platforms are the new place to talk with fans outside the [TV] viewers, and the Champions League is not losing popularity because of the migration of broadcasts to pay-television.”
Epstein continued: “The television broadcasters tell us that our product is good because it is popular and attracts viewers, and the sponsors tell us that the brand is very strong and they do not want to leave us.”
Amazon and Netflix have recently made a splash in European soccer through their documentary series about top clubs Manchester City and Juventus, respectively.
Amazon has also dipped into the live rights market in acquiring a package of 20 English Premier League matches per season in the UK in the next three-year cycle starting in the 2019-20 season.
This will complement rights it has also acquired in sports such as NFL American football and tennis.
However, Netflix has no plans to offer live sports itself, according to Maria Ferraras, the company’s vice-president of business development for EMEA.
Speaking at the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, Ferreras ruled out buying live rights on the basis that there is “nothing we could do different from a broadcaster.”
Amazon recently came in for significant criticism for its exclusive live coverage in the UK of of tennis’ US Open from UK viewers used to what they regarded as better presentation of the sport on pay-TV platforms.
Ferreras said that Netflix would continue to pursue sport as a documentary offering, producing original series, and partnering with broadcasters where advantageous.
Ongoing projects include an official series on the 2018 Formula 1 season to be released early next year.