Eleven Sports battling on despite rights losses
Online broadcaster will show Copa del Rey semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid
Eleven Sports will show the Copa del Rey semi-final between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters
Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani’s streaming service Eleven Sports has signalled its determination to fight on after recent setbacks by securing the rights to the Copa del Rey semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
A week after the London-based company was forced to give up its UK and Irish rights to Serie A and Eredivisie games, Eleven Sports has agreed a deal to stream Wednesday’s first leg at the Nou Camp and the return leg in Madrid on February 27th.
And as announced last week, Eleven Sports has held on to its LaLiga rights so will also be showing the Spanish giants’ league clash on March 2nd, which means it is offering three El Clasicos in 24 days at €6.99 a month now, with that price dropping to €5.99 on March 1st.
Eleven Sports will also show both legs of the other semi-final between Real Betis and Valencia, with their games taking place on February 7th and February 28th.
In a statement, Eleven Sports chief executive Marc Watson said: “Barcelona and Real Madrid are two of the world’s biggest clubs with a rivalry drenched in history. Each clash will be a fantastic spectacle that will complement the exciting finale to the LaLiga season.”
Eleven Sports certainly needs Barca and Real to conjure up some excitement as the abrupt end of the relationship with IMG, the agency that manages the Eredivisie and Serie A rights, has left it with only one major asset, Spanish football.
It was all very different nine months ago when the streaming platform announced its arrival in the British and Irish market with exclusive deals to show Chinese, Dutch, Irish and Spanish football, along with Ultimate Fighting Championship contests. It even dabbled in golf, securing the British and Irish rights to the 2018 USPGA Championship.
But it had to give up the UFC contract when it failed to secure a carriage deal with a traditional broadcaster and then had to back down in a dispute with Uefa and the British leagues over its plan to show Italian and Spanish games during the Saturday afternoon football broadcast blackout.
As a result, it is unsurprising that its attempt to create a ‘Netflix for sport’ in the UK and Ireland has failed to attract the audience it hoped for and is understood to be losing money.
It is also telling that the rights to the Chinese, Dutch and Italian leagues have been picked up Premier Sports, the Dublin-based broadcaster that does have carriage agreements with BT and Virgin, as well as a free-to-air channel called FreeSports.
But in a statement released last week, Eleven Sports said the decision to end the deal with IMG was “strategic” and it had “the intention of continuing beyond” the end of this season with its LaLiga offer — the Copa del Rey deal would suggest it is serious in its intent.