The rise of a Brazilian breakaway soccer league is coinciding with a loss of control by the main broadcast powerhouse in Brazil, TV Globo.
A year ago, news surfaced that nearly all Brazilian clubs from the first and second divisions were ready to unite and form a potential breakaway league with almost a billion-dollar investment from U.S.-based private equity investors. Such a league was seen as a way to negotiate better and more lucrative media deals, the primary source of revenue for Brazilian clubs.
From the mid-1980s until a few years ago, TV Globo was often the only buyer of sports rights in Brazil for over-the-air television and pay-per-view options. While there never was a monopoly, the primary domestic rights for top regional championships and the Brasileirão (Brazil’s national soccer tournament) usually went to TV Globo, as it was by far the audience leader in network television and on cable, reaching an average of 183 million households in Brazil. TV Globo did not respond to Sportico’s request for comment for this article.
“The market seems to be ready for the next phase, where multiple broadcasters will be sharing the same event on multiple platforms,” said Ricardo Fort, the founder of consulting firm Sport by Fort. Fort is part of the group of sports executives including Scott Guglielmino, Charles Stillitano, Flavio Zveitler and Lawrence Magrath who set out to commercialize a new breakaway league. “It is expected, and I think it will be welcomed, to have matches in open TV, pay-per-view, and global streaming platforms like Amazon.”
In 2021, Grupo Globo, the conglomerate that owns TV Globo, generated approximately $2.63 billion (14.17 billion Brazilian reals) in revenue. While TV Globo’s broadcasting budget is undisclosed, it is the largest commercial TV network in Latin America and comparable to ABC in size and scope.
After the pandemic hit in 2020, major streaming platforms took an interest in Brazilian soccer and started bidding for sports rights as major television contracts ended. In the country where jogo bonito was invented, sports was a key driver of subscriptions for paid TV channels and is again being bet on to drive subscriptions in the streaming world.
“There are more operators coming into the market,” said William Mao, SVP of Global Media Rights at Octagon. They are seeking Brazilian soccer rights, he said, “because they help that property unlock a lot of other markets” throughout the Americas.
Today, Brazil’s regional and national competitions are split across multiple operators. TV Globo lost broadcast rights to the country’s top regional tournament, Campeonato Paulista, nicknamed Paulistão. According to Brazilian media, all rights to the event were sold for a price 30% higher than the previous contract, which was exclusive to TV Globo. This season games were broadcast on six different outlets: Record (network TV), TNT Sports (cable TV), HBO Max (streaming) and YouTube.
TV Globo also lost Brazil’s most famous regional tournament, Campeonato Carioca, centered in Rio de Janeiro. According to Brazilian news outlet UOL, TV Globo’s deal with Rio’s soccer body was approximately $200 million for 2016-24. One of Brazil’s top clubs, Flamengo, which has a massive global following, was unsatisfied with Globo’s offer and began streaming its games on YouTube in July 2020. TV Globo cancelled the $200 million contract and has since pursued remedies in court without success. Since 2020, the tournament’s broadcasting deals with Globo have been on rolling year-by-year basis. This season the tournament is also broadcast on Record, a cable channel.
In terms of international tournaments, Paramount+ has recently secured broadcast rights to the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier international club competition, in Brazil for the 2023-26 cycle. Currently, the only important tournament TV Globo will broadcast is Copa do Brazil, but that is also streamed on Amazon Prime. The move from Globo to various streaming services has proven more lucrative for Brazilian clubs than dealing with the country’s top network.
“Brazilians are ready to follow Brasileirão in open TV, pay-per-view and global platforms like Amazon. The challenge is developing a distribution strategy,” said Fort. “This is the role of the league: organizing the behind the scenes with broadcasters to maximize revenues for the clubs while educating fans about where to find and purchase their favorite team’s matches.”