Eleven stays afloat in Britain

From March, to catch Cristiano Ronaldo in action for defending Italian champions Juventus in the Serie A, viewers in Britain and Ireland will have to switch to Premier Sports after Eleven Sports gave up the rights. Premier will hold the rights until
From March, to catch Cristiano Ronaldo in action for defending Italian champions Juventus in the Serie A, viewers in Britain and Ireland will have to switch to Premier Sports after Eleven Sports gave up the rights. Premier will hold the rights until 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

Unable to get enough subscribers, it offloads Serie A, Eredivisie, Chinese league rights to rival

LONDON • Eleven Sports, the self-styled "Netflix of sport", has saved its operations in the fiercely competitive Britain and Ireland markets from closure after reaching deals to offload the rights to Italy's Serie A and continue coverage of Spain's LaLiga.

In December, it emerged that the streaming service, which is thought to have attracted 50,000 subscriptions since its August launch, was unable to attract enough subscribers.

The company, which stopped its pay-TV operations in Singapore and became unavailable on Singtel TV from August last year, attempted to renegotiate rights deals at a much cheaper rate to try and avoid pulling the plug.

It has now concluded talks with IMG, which acts as the agent for Serie A rights, with the Britain and Ireland rights to move to Premier Sports from next month until 2021.

Premier Sports also picked up the rights to the Dutch Eredivisie and Chinese Super League from Eleven.

Eleven has also concluded a new agreement with LaLiga, giving it temporary breathing space to keep broadcasting matches until the end of the season. In the summer, it will have to negotiate another deal.

"The strategic direction we have chosen allows us to focus on LaLiga, which not only drives real value for us in the UK and Ireland but is also a property which we continue to have a valued partnership with in five markets globally," said a spokesman for Eleven Sports, which is controlled by Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani.

The Italian businessman said last December that Eleven could not rely on Internet subscribers alone to make its British venture work and is working out distribution deals for his channel.

Eleven said that as a result of the cutback in sports content, existing and new subscribers will see the price of its monthly pass reduced from £5.99 (S$11) to £4.99 from next month.

Last November, it struck a deal with Scottish broadcaster STV to show two live LaLiga and Serie A games a week through its online streaming service. Last October, it was forced to stop its controversial practice of broadcasting European games on Saturday afternoons after pressure from football stakeholders.

Eleven, which had outbid Sky and BT, Britain's two largest sports broadcasters, for the rights that the two companies had previously owned, said that despite the setbacks it is still looking for new sports rights deals.

Endeavour, the Hollywood talent agency which owns Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the increasingly popular mixed martial arts competition, and IMG hold a minority stake in Eleven Sports UK & Ireland. Eleven, which also operates in markets including Poland and Portugal, is controlled via the holding company Aser, which in turn is controlled by Radrizzani.

Late last year, UFC opted to move back to previous rights holder BT with a new broadcast deal.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2019, with the headline 'Eleven stays afloat in Britain'. Print Edition | Subscribe