Eleven renegotiating rights in ‘hostile’ UK market

13 Dec 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

Eleven Sports has briefed media that it is in discussions to secure the future of its UK OTT service, following the collapse of its UFC rights deal.

The global provider entered the UK this summer, hoping to replicate the success of its “platform agnostic” model in other territories.

Its strategy is based on securing additional carriage agreements with major broadcasters to supplement its own subscription-based streaming platform.

Eleven has failed to achieve such an agreement for the UK and Ireland UFC rights that it won by outbidding incumbent BT Sport earlier in the year.

The multi-year agreement was due to start in January, with the streaming company holding the rights to 42 live events in 2019 as well as over 150 hours of UFC original and archive programming.

But the lack of a deal with a major broadcaster has now caused UFC to trigger an exit clause in its contract.

As a result, UFC is set to remain with BT Sport in 2019. It represents a turnaround for the telecoms giant, which had relinquished the rights after five years in the summer, saying it was “not prepared to pay more than [they] are worth.” 

An Eleven Sports spokesperson confirmed that the Aser company is now in talks with its other rights partners – LaLiga and IMG – about “how we can restructure our existing agreements in order to continue our current OTT service."

The firm blamed “rampant piracy” among the factors making the UK a “hostile market” for new entrants to the live sports broadcast space.

It comes a week after an estimated 10 million people tuned in to illegal streams of the Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder heavyweight fight in Los Angeles – a contest that was marketed at £14.99 by BT Sport in the UK.

"How to watch Fury vs. Wilder?" was the UK's top-trending "how to" search query in 2018, according to Google's annual trends report released this week.