Kürten warns international federations against costly OTT spend
By Jonathan Rest
International federations face wasting their already-limited resources by launching costly over-the-top subscription platforms, Stefan Kürten, executive director of Eurovision Sport, a division of the European Broadcasting Union, has warned.
Kürten, an 18-year EBU veteran, believes a combination of free-to-air and pay-television broadcast deals remains the optimum rights model for federations.
At the turn of the year, field hockey’s FIH launched its own direct-to-consumer product, following in the footsteps of aquatics’ FINA in 2017 and volleyball’s FIVB last year, as international federations seek to find a home for some of the content not used by traditional linear and pay-TV partners.
While the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Channel was intended as the platform for much of that unused content, some governing bodies believe having their own OTT offering will generate significant financial returns.
Speaking exclusively to Sportcal at 'SportsRights Live' in Brussels, Kürten said: “I believe strongly in a combination of linear and digital. I don’t think the industry is ready for full OTT yet. It will clearly be of more relevance over time, but the business model still needs to be developed.
“Lots of international federations are investing quite substantial money on doing their own solution. We see the market going completely crazy. Our advice is stop it. Don’t do it.”
In January, the FIH entered into an agreement with mycujoo, the streaming platform, for the creation and launch of ‘FIH.live’. The service offers live streaming of all FIH competitions, but also encourages players and teams to generate and share video content from around the world.
FIH.live is free to access, albeit markets in which broadcast rights for FIH competitions have already been sold are subject to geo-blocking.
Meanwhile, the FIVB and FINA have developed pay-per-view or subscription OTT solutions, teaming up with IMG, the international sports and entertainment company, and Deltatre, the global sports media services company, respectively.
Kürten continued: “You spend more time trying to work out what you can and cannot carve out for your own OTT solutions. And what for? I’m sorry, but who would look out for FINA, or whatever, in order to say ‘I have to follow now a certain swimming event’. This will not happen.
“If you do it, then you have to have a proper archive, where you at least have some additional content. If you look into the archives of some federations, it is not digitally prepared. So there are more costs involved.
“I think a lot of money is burned in this sector. Being on their side, I would be very careful about investing in this. Going with established partners in the digital space, that makes sense. But a combination of free and pay is always the best. Just don’t throw too much money into it.”
Kürten said he understands federations’ desire to have more eyeballs for more of their content, but believes a multi-sports platform, rather than a sport-focused one, would be more beneficial.
He added: “We clearly know, for political reasons, lots of federations now want to show youth events, the C and D category events, and for this it [an OTT platform] is a must-have. This is also what we are doing with our new production solutions. But if you have a C and D event that must be covered, then stream it on an OTT solution that also carries top events, then more people might find it.
“This aggregation of content is something we have not achieved yet. If you want to succeed, you have to combine it with top quality content and then find solutions and see and identify what the consumer wants.”
The Eurovision Sport head noted that while digital powerhouses such as Amazon and Facebook have “dipped their toe” in the water when it comes to sports rights investment, they have to yet to have the impact many international federations hoped.
He said: “A huge federation said to us [during rights negotiations] ‘you are old’. We said ‘ok, good luck, off you go’. Then when the tender procedure came to an end, they came back to us.
"Well I can tell you, the price dropped.”