Belgian Pro League seals €103m domestic rights deal with Eleven

Belgian Pro League seals €103m domestic rights deal with Eleven
Global broadcaster Eleven Sports has secured exclusive live domestic broadcast rights to Belgian soccer’s Pro League for the next five seasons after Antwerp became the final top-flight club to sign off on a deal understood to be worth €103 million (US$112.2 million) annually.

The global media company, headquartered in Belgium, was effectively awarded the rights on principle back in February, though could not be officially installed as the league’s domestic rights partner until all of its 16 clubs agreed to the partnership.

The delay came after both Antwerp and KAA Gent decided to opt out of the collective rights sale. Gent reportedly rejected the offer on the basis that ‘exclusivity was undervalued in the offer’, while Antwerp’s withdrawal was based on the allocation of the rights fees.

Under the league’s existing domestic rights contract – shared between incumbent broadcast partners Proximus, Telenet, and Voo for €80.6 million (US$88.6 million) a year – 80 per cent of the fee is distributed between the Pro League’s so-called ‘big five’, including Anderlecht, Standard Liege, Club Brugge, Genk, and also Gent.

Those clubs had been pushing for a larger revenue share for the rights cycle between 2020/21 and 2024/25, a move that would reduce the 20 per cent cut currently distributed to the league’s other 11 clubs, including Antwerp.

Though it is not clear how the rights fees are shared in the new deal, Gent eventually agreed terms in the middle of February.

Under the terms of the deal, which covers 11 separate rights packages, Eleven has secured coverage from the Belgian First Division A, the First Division B, the women's Super League, the Belgian Cup and the Belgian Super Cup.

The Eleven network, which is delivered to more than 75,000 Belgian homes, said that it will now focus on creating a network of 24-hour TV and digital platforms for Belgian soccer.

Eleven’s chairman Marc Watson said: “In these uncertain times, we are pleased to have some positive news to share with Belgian football fans. This is the first time Eleven has secured the domestic rights to one of European football’s major leagues.

“It is a milestone moment for the progress of our group and testament to the quality of our team and the fan-centric platform that we have built up in Belgium since 2015. It is also thanks to the fantastic support we have received from our local partners.

“We are dedicated to continuing to work through these current challenges to bring the best content possible to our fans around the world.” 

It was confirmed by the Belgium FA (RBFA) on 17th March that no soccer will be played in Belgium until 3rd April at the earliest in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Eleven’s rights portfolio in Belgium also includes other top-flight soccer competitions, such as Spain’s LaLiga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and the FA Cup in England, which have all been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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