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What: The financial troubles of leading media rights firm MP & Silva leaves international football, and other sports rights, in flux.
Why it matters: The unexpected availability of these rights may present opportunities for brands to partner with some of the world’s biggest football properties.

As most of Europe begins a new season of football now, many leagues are facing a very unforeseen issue in the next few weeks (and potentially the next few years): namely where their games can be seen—and who can see them—as massive media rights company MP & Silva (@MPSworldwidecontinues to go through its huge financial issues.

Monday the Scottish Professional Football League (@spfltook their rights back from MPS before a default that would have threatened a global blackout of their new season. A potential audience of tens of millions across the Middle East, Australia and North Africa were “denied coverage” of Saturday’s action. But the SPFL’s “cash-stricken” media partner “failed to stump up payments to continue selling the Scottish game abroad,” allowing SPFL CEO Neil Doncaster to “terminate the cut-price deal” five years ahead of schedule.

…[T]he global sports rights business especially for soccer, with one of its biggest players, remains in a great deal of flux.

The move by the SPFL follows that of Serie A (@SerieAlast week, which is now suing the company, which was founded in 2004 by the Italian trio of Andrea Radrizzani, Riccardo Silva and Carlo Pozzali, before being sold to Baofeng Technology and Everbright Securities in May 2016. The two Chinese companies took a 65 per cent stake in a deal that valued the company at US$1.1 billion.

What this means for leagues like Serie A and the SPFL is unclear, but for competitive companies looking to garner international rights it presents great opportunity to partner with some of the world’s biggest football properties at a time when those deals were thought to be off the table for years to come. According to TV Sports Markets (@TVSportsMarkets), MP & Silva has also missed scheduled payments to English soccer’s Premier League (@premierleagueand the European Handball Federation (@EHF), and is said to be in arbitration with FIFA (@FIFAcomover its advisory contract for Italian rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

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The default can also open doors for streaming services to engage and pick up rights for football leagues that were thought to be tied up in traditional broadcast deals, although the rights could be repositioned to the original holders. In the United States, MPS has had a burgeoning business that now appears to be on hold, with deals selling for the NFL, Monumental Sports and others.

For his part Doncaster painted a very positive picture for Scottish Football, looking to see what new deals, and potentially new dollars, this could open up.

“Scottish football is growing in popularity at home and abroad We are working to ensure that fans across the globe are able to enjoy matches from the Ladbrokes SPFL, the Betfred Cup and the IRN-BRU Cup as normal this season,” he added. “This also allows us to explore opportunities to give even more fans worldwide the chance to watch our games.”

As this plays out, the global sports rights business especially for soccer, with one of its biggest players, remains in a great deal of flux in a story that could become one of the biggest of the year.

cover image: SPFL

What?: Mexican soccer teams are being paid millions of dollars for broadcasting rights in the U.S.
Why it matters?: Broadcast channels in the U.S. are spending millions of dollars a year to obtain the rights to transmit Mexican soccer games in an effort to reach the 35 million Hispanics of Mexican descent living in the U.S. (Note: This article is a revised version of an article included in Portada’s 2016 Sports Marketing Guide, to get the full version, DOWNLOAD it here).

12106291_144901869198946_1403484663_n_002In 2013, Chivas, Guadalajara’s main football club, signed a $16 million-dollar deal with Univisión to broadcast their regular season games in the United States until 2018. This contract surpassed the team’s last agreement with Telemundo, who paid them $11 million for the rights from 2008 to 2013. With these numbers, Chivas has positioned itself as the highest-paid team for broadcasting games in the U.S (see table below)., ranked even above the entire Mexican national league, Liga MX, which is paid US$12 million a year by Univisión/ESPN to broadcast its games in English and Spanish.

Chivas is just one example of a Mexican soccer team that has its eye on the U.S. market. El America, Cruz Azul and Pumas are paid $15, $11 and $10 million dollars a year for the U.S. rights, respectively. Broadcast networks like Grupo Azteca are investing substantial amounts of money to shore up their soccer offerings.

“With more than 35 million Hispanics of Mexican descent living in the U.S., it is easy to understand why Mexican soccer teams decided to promote their audience there. The Liga MX even gets the highest audience rate of all games,” says Vicente Navarro, VP of business development at AC&M Group, a Hispanic and soccer marketing agency.

Good Things Happen North of the Border

TeamTV Channel
DealYearly income in
 USD
AméricaUnivisión2015-202015,000,000
AtlasUnivisión2013-20165,500,000
ChiapasUnivisión2013-20163,000,000
Cruz AzulUnivisión2013-201811,000,000
GuadalajaraUnivisión2013-201816,000,000
LeónTelemundo/NBC2012-20156,300,000
MonterreyUnivisión2013-20163,000,000
MoreliaAzteca América/ESPN2013-20165,000,000
PachucaTelemundo/NBC2014-20187,000,000
PueblaAzteca América/ESPN2013-20162,500,000
QuerétaroAzteca América/ESPN2014-20172,000,000
SantosUnivisión2013-20164,000,000
TigresUnivisión2013-20163,000,000
TijuanaAzteca América/ESPN2013-20163,500,000
TolucaUnivisión2013-20178,000,000
UNAMUnivisión2013-201810,000,000
VeracruzUnivisión2013-20173,500,000

Source: Wikipedia and Portada
Note: Mexico’s major soccer teams and their broadcast rights in the U.S.

According to Jorge Villalobos, CEO of Sports Marketing Monterrey, selling broadcast rights to American media channels is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The soccer team obtains more exposure (apart from being paid well), the TV channel gets quality content, the advertising companies have a platform on which to sell their content, and the fans are able to see their teams play.

Jorge Villalobos, CEO at Sports Marketing Monterrey
Jorge Villalobos, CEO at Sports Marketing Monterrey

There are many sports channels in the U.S. and most of them designate a bigger part of their broadcasting time to soccer, not only in Spanish but also in English, says Villalobos. “This is an industry that is evolving, and as the U.S. audience is becoming more sophisticated, it demands better quality.” The evolution of American audiences has to be reflected in the channels’ content, and if an audience is interested in Mexican soccer, the channels will do what it takes to show it.

Some years ago, it was crazy to think that the media would broadcast even 20% of the Mexican season’s friendly soccer games: All of the games that we play in the U.S. are transmitted not only nationally but also in Mexico and 20 other countries,” says Villalobos. What’s more, El Tri, Mexico’s national soccer team, plays more games in the U.S. than in Mexico.

Selling to an American Audience

Only 10 days ago Univision Deportes broadcast the Campeón de Campeones match (Champion of Champions) with Honda as title sponsor. The winners of the two most recent Liga MX seasons played against each other. Tellingly the match was not played in Mexico, but Dominguez Hills-Carson, CA.

“Soccer advertisers keep growing in the U.S.,” says Villalobos. “There are more and more brands that see soccer as their best tool to reach the Hispanic market and connect with it.” For this reason, agencies like Sports Marketing Monterrey are focusing on bringing Mexican soccer and brands closer, not only through advertising but also through other experiences like events and special promotions.

Vicente Navarro, VP of business development at AC&M Group
Vicente Navarro, VP of business development at AC&M Group
“The average income in the U.S. is much higher than in Mexico,” admits Navarro. “This also means that the fans have a higher purchasing power to buy stuff from their favourite teams.”

Still “it is not a secret that the fans have stopped spending their money on ‘things,’ because now, they want experiences,” admits Villalobos. So, when bringing a team to the U.S., the commercial relationship does not end after the game: the brands are sponsoring other events, too, for autograph signing or meet-and-greets with players, for example.

But brands cannot forget that U.S. Hispanics behave differently than Mexicans do in their home country. It is a mistake to think that one can apply the same campaign used during a soccer game in Mexico in the U.S., because “it is a different target and you have to discover how to reach it,” adds Villalobos.

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According to Navarro, selling broadcast rights to U.S. channels doesn’t represent a risk at all for the teams. “It could be risky for the companies buying the rights, or for the marketing agencies paying for advertising, if the team is having a terrible season,” he adds. “But, in general, the teams can bring in great revenue because they are already a strong global brand.”