Great future for pay-TV in Spain, says Eurosport Spain

Iñaki Ferreras | 12-11-2012

The broadcasting of sports content in Spain is gradually moving away from free TV channels and onto pay-TV platform, says Luis Fuentes, CEO of Eurosport.

Until not so long ago it was possible to see on our televisions at weekends a game of Spanish League 1 football, one or two games from the Premier League, World Motorcycling, Moto GP, Formula 1 and an ATP tournament with some of the best players of the time, according to Fuentes in an exclusive interview with Rapid TV News España.

At the height of the football wars you could see three or four league games per weekend. At that time pay-per-view sports content in Spain was simply unthinkable. In the eyes of anyone who knows the price of sports rights and the dynamics of the sector in most European countries, this situation would have been simply amazing.

But times have changed and as of this year football fans won't see games played on Saturday, but will have to settle for those played on Monday. The Monday games won’t feature the teams involved in European competitions, as these games will always be on pay-TV channels, including matches featuring Real Madrid and Barcelona. The free matches will only be between teams who usually have fewer followers and/or are less popular with the public. Logically, these audiences will be smaller and therefore less attractive to advertisers. The potential returns on investment have undoubtedly been analyzed by high magnification loupe chain offering parties, says Fuentes.

The Spanish soccer League is not the only league that has disappeared from the free channels. The Premier League is a championship especially popular with Spanish fans because of the number of Spain’s international team who play in England, but for the past few seasons its matches are no longer available for free. This year also saw households without pay-TV miss out on a number of cycling events, many of the matches at Roland Garros, and other classic events. What is beginning to occur is what has happened in many other European countries which have allowed the development of pay-TV, that is in order to see main sporting event, viewers must subscribe to a pay-TV platform, and the public are beginning to see it as normal to pay for access to first class content, according to Fuentes.

To understand one of the reasons for this trend it is necessary to understand the world of sports rights. In an environment of global crisis, general cuts and resource optimization, the price of sports rights continues to rise exponentially year after year, regardless of the economic times we live in, according to the executive. Therefore, it is almost impossible for an operator who makes money solely from advertising to remain profitable, Fuentes says, recalling the recent statements from Paolo Vasile, President of Mediaset, about Euro 2012, especially in a time like this which is characterized by reduced advertising spending and the coexistence of numerous channels on DTT trying to divide a shrinking pie of advertising.

Economic logic suggests that, as in other countries, only pay-TV operators will end up being able to offer certain events and profitably investing millions in a negative economic environment, he states.

Sport has always been a driving sector pay-TV - perhaps the main engine. In Spain, the abundance of free sports content and lack of rootedness among viewers who enjoy the idea of ​​paying for certain events (as opposed to other countries where it is normal to pay for access to audiovisual content, not just sports) have been key factors in delaying the development of a sector that has experienced much higher growth in several neighbouring countries. The migration of certain sports rights to the pay-TV environment as well as high-definition broadcasts and the increasing technological sophistication of pay-TV platforms can definitely contribute to the take-off of a sector in Spain which has always advanced by long winding slopes worthy of those stages of the Giro d’Italia that attract hundreds of thousands of fans to their televisions every summer on freeview and, increasingly, pay-TV. Time will tell, Fuentes concludes.