Only four months into multi-year deals to broadcast Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga, Swedish Allsvenskan and Dutch Eredivisie football, and before deals to show the Chinese Super League and UFC have even started, widespread reports suggest Eleven Sports may be forced to pull the plug on its UK gamble.
Back in August, while collating TV coverage data for its Televised and Streamed Sports (TSS) product, Abelson Info predicted a rocky road for Eleven Sports disruptive attempt to break into the UK market.
In what now appears a prophetic summary, Jeevan Jeyaratnam said: “If Eleven Sports are to succeed in the UK market, it must secure a platform distribution deal, it is simply not acceptable (yet) to be an unknown provider relying on apps for streaming.
“There is a chance that this experiment will backfire and BT Sport or Sky will end up picking the pieces up for a knockdown rate, it may be a waiting game tactic from them, both knowing their EPL & Champions League coverage is important enough to maintain market share.”
Abelson’s TSS Product owner, Brad Gonsalves, suggested the messages emanating from the Eleven Sports camp differ from those reported by the national newspapers: “Only last week Eleven Sports announced a ‘Watch Together’ feature, aimed at increasing social interactions with the streaming service. With the new feature not yet even trialled, the headlines this week suggest that it will never make it to the audience.
“Eleven Sports is either incredibly confident, or incredibly naïve, when it signed the rights deals for Serie A and La Liga, outbidding experienced UK operators Sky Sports and BT Sport. The comprehension that either BT or Sky would welcome an Eleven Sports channel on their platform, after losing out on the rights deals was misplaced, and the failure to do so seems to have harmed any chance it had of making the impact it needed. With a reported subscriber base of just 50,000 (Daily Telegraph) in the UK and Ireland, the numbers simply don’t add up.
“One of the major complications Eleven Sports has faced is the extreme latency in their feeds. Watching a game while betting on another screen was quickly rendered pointless as bookmaker feeds were minutes ahead. I think losing this segment of the marketplace meant the enterprise was doomed.”
The Guardian report that the beleaguered streaming service are preparing to hand back the TV rights element of its deals, leaving them with streaming privileges only. A move that is almost certain to sink the enterprise in the UK & Ireland.
Gonsalves added: “As predicted back in August, the big TV companies have held their nerve and look set to benefit in the second half of the season, with cut-price deals with the federations, who must rue their greed in the first instance. The situation for bookmakers, who may have witnessed a decline in interest in Italian and Spanish football, now appears positive. A likely renegotiation of TV rights would see the big games back on TV, sans lag, and once again, viable betting propositions.”