Eleven Sports Extends Facebook Streaming for Top Flight Football

Eleven Sports is expanding streaming of its premium assets via Facebook in a bid to expand its reach and gain new subscribers to its OTT offering.

Eleven Sports' latest move is to begin streaming top division German Bundesliga football matches in Portugal, kicking off with the match between FC Bayern München and Fortuna Düsseldorf. This comes in addition to Italian La Liga matches which it has been streaming in Portugal since last month. The sports broadcaster, based in the UK and founded in 2015, has also been showing one La Liga and one Italian Series A match every weekend in the UK and Ireland. Recently Bundesliga and La Liga matches have also been shown on the platform in Poland, while French Ligue 1 matches have been shown in Belgium.

Eleven Sports does not have the resources to compete at the top table for most premium sports rights in their home country and so has been nibbling around the edges by taking top packages for other nations. This strategy has had some success by betting on top leagues in global sports with appeal beyond the home country but where the rights are affordable. Top Spanish La Liga matches involving Barcelona featuring one of the all-time great players Lionel Messi attract significant audiences overseas, as to a slightly lesser extent do many Italian, English, German and Spanish league games. As another example, English Premier League (EPL) matches are popular in Taiwan where Eleven Sports holds the rights.

For Eleven Sports, Facebook is a promotional platform showing selected matches free in the hope that it will hook enough consumers to pay for the subscription to the main package, costing typically around $8 a month, to make the exercise worthwhile. But Facebook meanwhile is also grabbing sports rights for itself, again showing the content free but in its case with a view to monetizing it through advertising. Facebook has for example acquired exclusive rights for Spanish La Liga football in the Indian subcontinent in a deal whose value was not disclosed but was probably around $50 million for three seasons. This was an astute move exploiting the fact that cricket was the dominant sport in the country keeping the rights cheap, while tapping into rising interest in football. Facebook has a big potential audience there with 270 million registered subscribers. The world’s top social media site has also dipped its toe into premium US sports by showing Major League Baseball games. It pays around $1 million per game and is already attempting to recoup the cost through targeted advertising.

This is all part of a gathering migration of rights towards OTT platforms away from traditional satellite and cable services, even if these are early days. One potent signal of this transition is that in the world’s richest football league, the EPL, this is the last season all matches will be viewable on some traditional pay TV channel in the UK, in that case either Sky or BT Sports. Amazon has seized one of the smaller packages of mid-week matches for the next three seasons in the UK which will be viewable only by subscribers to its Prime service.

But there is one sticking point for OTT sports streaming, the fact that many public venues such as bars and pubs lack a fast enough broadband connection to display the content at sufficient resolution on big screens. That will require in many cases fiber to the premise or possibly bonded cellular to deliver enough bandwidth.

Eleven Sports itself has confirmed its awareness of the need to focus on quality across its streaming ecosystem, noting how it recently concluded extensive field trials for its new hybrid-IP live sports production system in Singapore. This involved Ideal-Live, the live broadcast services department of Ideal Systems, which claims to be Asia’s largest broadcast and media systems integrator.

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