LaLiga media Rightsholders

Streaming wars see new rightsholder deals

MIAMI (10 Oct 2021)

The latest shot in the football streaming wars was ESPN’s recent acquisition of the English-language and Spanish-language media rights to Spain’s LaLiga Santander. The multi-year rightsholder agreement will begin in August 2021, according to a report in World Soccer Talk. Already, ESPN+ has added bilingual (Spanish/English) LaLiga programming in an effort to promote its debut on the streaming service.

In the broadcast battles between the major media giants (Disney/ESPN+, NBCUniversal/Peacock, ViacomCBS/Paramount+), it’s game on to try to acquire the rights to the available major football leagues and competitions. Both NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS have publicly shared how foot has played a key role in generating many of the new signups to their streaming services. NBCUniversal’s CEO credited the Premier League as the number one driver of subscriptions and engagement to Peacock Premium before The Office moved to Peacock. And over at Paramount+, the Champions League has been the main driver of new subscribers outside of the NFL.

The timing of the acquisition of LaLiga rights is ideal for ESPN. Disney’s ESPN+ has been gobbling up football rights during the past two years including a long-term deal with the Bundesliga to stream every game. ESPN+’s stated and very ambitious goal is to double their number of subscribers by year end 2021; in fact it has made football an integral part of its strategy to acquire new subscribers. What has been missing thus far has been more top flight leagues. LaLiga, with heavyweights FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, is one. The other two are Liga MX (with rights currently held mostly by Univision/TUDN) and the Premier League (held by NBCUniversal).

The U.S. rights to the English Premier League will be coming up for bidding in the next few months. CBS Sports, ESPN and other broadcasters are expected to battle for the rights along with incumbent NBC Sports. Fans have been angered by NBC’s decision to push many Premier League games behind a pay wall using Peacock.

FuboTV hit a record with its Q1 earnings. The question now is whether those figures represent a trajectory or a peak.

The streaming platform grew revenue 135% year-over-year to $119.7 million in the quarter — but also sustained an 80% increase in operating expenses, leading to an overall loss of $70.2 million.

Launched in 2015, the company’s 590,430 subscribers are dwarfed by legacy companies with huge portfolios of original content and streaming rights.

  • Peacock, with 33 million subscribers, includes the NBC Sports network of shows and broadcasts.
  • ViacomCBS reached 36 million subscribers across its various streaming services, primarily Paramount+, which was buoyed by the Super Bowl and NCAA tournament.
  • Disney+ reached 100 million subscribers in March. Some subscribers bundle with ESPN+, which has 12 million subscribers and is solely focused on sports broadcasting and original content. 

By Ken Russo

While my background is in the legal industry, the skills acquired and fine-tuned in law practice are now applied to focus on the sport of football. Russo Soccer aims to inform, educate and engage on news and relevant issues in the game.

Um advogado por formação, concentro meu trabalho nos negócios, comunicações e operações de equipes no futebol mundial. | Abogado con fundación avanzada en comunicaciones, enfocado en los negocios del fútbol y las comunicaciones. | Je suis un avocat experimenté dans les affaires de football.