Earlier this year, nine second-tier European soccer leagues pooled their international media rights, hoping that the entire 1,500-plus game package would bring in more money, and more visibility, than each of them hitting the market individually. Now that the deals are done, the group says it achieved both goals.
The nine leagues, which include the top domestic league in Denmark, Switzerland and Norway, have inked three-year deals with Eleven and OneFootball. Together, those two media companies reach 10x more people than the nine leagues were collectively reaching under their previous non-domestic deals.
The package was expected to fetch between $5 million and $20 million, and while financial specifics weren’t released, it marks an increase for every participant. A few of the nine leagues received no cash under their previous rights deals; the ones who were getting money are seeing sharp increases.
“We should have done this years ago,” said Knut Kristvang, head of media rights at the Norwegian Eliteserien. “But now we’re there, and we’re very excited.”
Media deals for leagues of this size are usually inked with third-party intermediaries, not directly with the media companies themselves, according to Chris Gerstle, head of business development for the European Leagues, which organized the deal. That often results in ultimate media partners that lack reach, and maybe more important, don’t always sharing viewership data with the leagues, he said. This format also helps avoid that barrier, he added.
The pooled rights project began last year with a research report put together by Octagon, the European Leagues’ exclusive adviser in the tender process. That report was shared with the entire European Leagues membership, which resulted in at least 10 leagues showing interest in the joining the pool. That number was eventually whittled down to nine based on which rights were ultimately available.
The tender focused largely on the size of the package—it covers 116 clubs, and more than 1,500 annual games—and the offset nature of the schedule. While most top-tier European leagues are off in the summer, four of the leagues in this package are off in the winter, meaning they fill the soccer void during the summer months.
“We really built up quite a unique product,” said Malgorzata Borkowska, media rights consultant and board adviser to the Polish Ekstraklasa. “If you consider that we’ve offered 3-6 matches from every match week, for nine different leagues, both summer and winter leagues, you get a bulk of content you can show throughout the entire season, 12 months, all year round.”
The nine leagues included in the package are the top domestic circuits in Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Poland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Iceland, Latvia and Kazakhstan, a European Leagues member. All of the games under these three-year deals will be available via free-to-air platforms.
The European Leagues, formally the Association of European Professional Football Leagues, is an association that represents 37 professional leagues and more than 1,000 clubs across Europe, from the English Premier League and LaLiga through smaller circuits in Slovakia and Latvia. The group is taking a similar approach with its gambling data rights, with an 18-league tender currently out for bid, and is hoping to add additional members to both packages in the future.