BeIN and Digiturk unfazed by Süper Lig clubs revolt over TV deal
By Jonathan Rest
BeIN Media Group, the international pay-television broadcaster, has insisted its relationship with the Turkish Football Federation is as strong as ever, and that an extension to its rights contract beyond 2022 could even be on the cards, despite growing unrest from top-flight Süper Lig clubs.
According to reports in Turkey, Digiturk, the BeIN-owned, pay-television operator that holds domestic rights to the Süper Lig, has failed to pay the first instalment of 25 per cent for the 2020-21 season - the penultimate season of a five-year contract - which got under way last weekend.
It means much needed money for the 21 Süper Lig clubs, many of which have assigned broadcasting revenues to bank debts, has not been forthcoming.
Mehmet Sepil, president of the Göztepe club, this week agreed reluctantly to stay on as chairman of the Süper Lig Clubs Association until the winter break, having initially tendered his resignation after growing frustrated at the way the TFF was handling talks with Digiturk about the delayed rights payments behind closed doors.
The clubs association claim that as well as holding back money, BeIN has been trying to renegotiate the terms of the deal down again, by as much as 15 per cent, having already amended the contract at the beginning of last season, basing it on exchange rate caps.
BeIN, however, insists it is still working on the terms of the revised contract from 2019-20.
The five-year agreement between BeIN and the Süper Lig runs to the end of 2021-22 and is worth $2.5 billion overall. BeIN also holds international rights to the league.
While the broadcasters paid the $1 billion for the first two seasons of the contract in full, the first instalment of 25 per cent for the 2019-20 season was also withheld, with Digiturk and BeIN demanding that the terms of the agreement be radically adjusted following a significant slide in the value of the Turkish lira.
The original contract stipulated that Digiturk paid the $500 million annual rights fee equally in US dollars and Turkish lira, but the lira's demise meant the broadcaster was facing shelling out considerably more for the rights than anticipated when that deal was signed in November 2016.
It was agreed that the US part of the contract would be paid at the spot exchange rate, which was 3.26 lira: $1 in November 2016, but reached a high of 7.4 lira: $1 before the contract was renegotiated.
In addition, the Turkish lira part of the deal was linked to the consumer price index and producer price index. While this was 2.26 at the time of the deal, it subsequently jumped to the 25 per cent mark before renegotiation.
A source in Turkey told Sportcal that the revised contract has meant a drop of between $100 million and $120 million per season in rights fees paid to the league.
Sepil said after this week's meeting: "We talked about the upcoming issues. The most important issue today was the economic difficulties experienced by the clubs since the pandemic. Where are we, what can we do? We discussed them. There are reductions in our important income sources... There is no clarity in TV revenues.
"Discussions with TFF with BeIN Sports are continuing. Until now, clubs were managing their operations more wisely as they received an advance. Clubs did not receive an advance. TFF is discussing this issue. Our expectation is to end this process as soon as possible. We are at the same point. It is our right to do what the contract says. We expect the payments required by the contract to be made. I have been in a few of these meetings. Our hope is to end the matter."
While the clubs claim the TFF is within its rights to terminate the contract if BeIN does not make its contracted payment, Sportcal understands the broadcaster is confident of reaching agreement with the federation.
Indeed TFF president Nihat Özdemir even told Turkish media last week that the federation is open to extending the Digiturk-BeIN contract.
One Turkish club executive told Sportcal there is a feeling among some in the top-flight that the TFF, in a bid to ensure some financial security in these uncertain times, will "bow to BeIN's demands" and accept a "lower annual sum" over an extended contract period.
BeIN maintains it stood by the Süper Lig in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down the league for three months earlier this year.
Separately, Digiturk is also facing the wrath of subscribers, with angry posts on social media platforms at the broadcaster's reduced sports offering.
Last month, Saran Media Group announced that it was taking its S Sport channel off the Digiturk platform, "due to the Digiturk management not fulfilling its past obligations and not taking positive steps for the future."
That decision means Digiturk subscribers are now unable to watch premium sports content, such as English soccer's Premier League, motor racing's Formula 1, mixed martial arts' UFC and North American basketball's NBA, rights to all of which are held by S Sport.
Saran yesterday announced it had extended its carriage deal for S Sport with rival Turk Telecom for its digital and direct-to-home platform Tivibu, adding the S Sport 2 channel to the package for the first time.
The Sport 2 channel carries the likes of soccer's German Bundesliga and Uefa Nations League, NFL American football, European club volleyball and US college basketball.
Also in Turkey, S Sport is carried by D-Smart, TV+, Kablo TV, and Vodafone TV.Sportcal