UEFA recently announced that it will be launching its own over the top (“OTT”) streaming platform within the next few months. When the provisionally named ‘UEFA TV’ goes live in time for the 2019/20 season, it will allow fans outside of Europe and North America to view Euro 2020 and future editions of the UEFA Nations League. Due to UEFA’s existing carriage agreements, it is unlikely that its premier club competitions, the Champions League and the Europa League, will be coming to UEFA TV until 2021 at the earliest.
Sports Shorts has discussed the evolving landscape of the sports broadcasting market and the growing prevalence of OTT platforms previously, but UEFA’s latest move signifies a change of tack from one of football’s major content licensors. Away from the lucrative European and North American broadcast markets, UEFA have presumably concluded that a direct-to-consumer approach will provide them with more revenue and more control over their relationship with consumers. In announcing the launch of UEFA TV, newly re-elected UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin spoke of UEFA’s desire to make football more accessible to fans across the globe. This may indicate a flexible pricing structure for the new platform, with single-match passes and/or tournament passes amongst the possible approaches that UEFA could take.
As markets mature, UEFA may seek to increase prices for UEFA TV to drive revenue growth, but its first mission will be to establish UEFA TV as a platform and garner sufficient subscribers to make it a profitable venture. Given the popularity of European football around the world, this would seem to be an inevitability, particularly once UEFA is able to offer the Champions League on its platform.
Aside from the revenue UEFA expects to generate from subscribers, it will supplement its income from UEFA TV through agreements with sponsors and advertisers. Indeed, in launching the platform, UEFA announced a sponsorship deal with Chinese e-commerce behemoth, the Alibaba Group. The expectation on UEFA’s side appears to be that this agreement will develop into a broader partnership in a number of areas. More sponsorship deals may be in the offing as UEFA TV’s launch date draws closer.
Stepping into the role of broadcaster will put even more of an onus on UEFA to combat the infringement of copyright in its content. Fighting piracy can involve a significant amount of resources, which could hit UEFA’s bottom-line. UEFA hasn’t been passive in protecting its content, even when licensing it to others, but, if UEFA retains exclusive broadcast rights to its competitions, it will not be able to rely on broadcaster-licensees taking action against infringers.
It is not yet clear if UEFA intends to disseminate its content exclusively through UEFA TV or if it will continue to enter into carriage agreements with local broadcasters to air UEFA competitions on linear television or other traditional mediums. Local variables such as consumers’ access to high-speed internet are likely to play a part in UEFA’s decision-making in this respect. Regardless, the launch of UEFA TV marks a significant moment in football broadcasting and it will be intriguing to see if UEFA looks to roll out the same model to European and North American markets when its current carriage deals expire.