Sky Sports has lost the rights to broadcast live La Liga matches to UK newcomers Eleven Sports from the start of the 2018/19 season.
Bringing an end to the pay-TV giant’s 20-year association with Spanish football’s top flight, the new deal with Eleven Sports will see it carry live coverage of La Liga matches on its platforms for three years until 2021.
Founded in 2015 and owned by Leeds United’s Italian owner Andrea Radrizzani, Eleven Sports has not previously been active in the UK sports rights market, but it has achieved rapid success throughout Europe, Asia and north America, and already holds La Liga rights in Belgium and Poland.
The network is established in several European countries including Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy, as well as in the USA, Singapore and Taiwan, with rights including Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Formula 1.
Eleven Sports will announce details in the coming weeks about how it will distribute La Liga action to fans in the UK from next season. In other markets this has been achieved via various platforms, including TV, online or through an app.
As well as global giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, La Liga boasts some of the world’s most famous players including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann.
Marc Watson, executive chairman and group chief executive officer of Eleven Sports, said:
“We are proud to build on our existing relationship with LaLiga, this time in the UK, one of the most passionate football countries in the world where Spanish football has significant appeal.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for our young and dynamic company and we will announce soon how we will introduce innovative ways for dedicated fans to watch and engage in the live action.
“The way people, especially young people, watch live sport is changing and we always try to reflect that in the ways we make our product available. We are excited about the opportunities we have to do this in the UK and Ireland.”
Coverage of Spanish football has proved popular on Sky Sports for more than two decades, with its current three-year deal to broadcast eight matches each weekend coming to an end at the end of the current season.
The last two La Liga El Clasico matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid were watched by a combined audience of more than one million fans in the UK, proving an appetite for Spanish football among UK fans.
Eleven Sports says it will work closely with La Liga to help grow the league’s appeal and reach across the country. It has not confirmed how much it is paying for the rights.
Earlier this year, Sky achieved a 14% discount in securing the next set of live Premier League rights from 2019. It is thought the broadcaster was unwilling to continue paying the £18m per season agreed under its current deal with La Liga, according to the Guardian, which left an opening for a new entrant in the market.
Commenting on the switch from Sky to Eleven Sports, La Liga president Javier Tebas said:
“Eleven Sports are an excellent partner for us in various markets across Europe and we are delighted to have the opportunity to work with them in the UK and Ireland – important markets for us in which LaLiga is very popular.
“We have worked very hard to promote the excellence of LaLiga in the UK and Ireland and we are confident that Eleven Sports will help us to grow and innovate our brand in the market for years to come.”
Eleven Sports’ over-the-top (OTT) rights mean it could broadcast online only via a website or app for subscribers, as it does in Italy.
Alternatively it might consider setting up its own TV channel in the UK to show live matches or exercise the right to sub-license particular La Liga games to other broadcasters.
Further details, including news on additional rights content, will be released soon.
For more information about Eleven Sports, visit the official website – elevensports.com.
A long enjoyable ride that was. All we tried was to give new dimensions to the people and stories related to our way of understand this game. But it helps if you love what you do. Thanks for your support during the last two decades, Sid. I am sure what is coming will also be good https://t.co/jWv73PFYMC
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) May 2, 2018