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Premier League looking to introduce its own OTT service

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters has confirmed that English soccer’s top flight is developing plans to launch its own over-the-top (OTT) streaming service in the future.

While he didn’t reveal all the finer details, Masters did confirm to UK media that streaming matches directly to the consumer could be an option as early as 2022, when the next rights cycle kicks in.

The launch of an OTT service would not eliminate the Premier League’s method of selling media rights to traditional broadcasters and third-party streaming services, with Masters suggesting instead that the competition will adopt a more mixed approach in the future.

Masters’ comments come a year after it was reported that the Premier League considered trialling an OTT service in Singapore, before opting to sign a three-year extension of its deal with telecommunications company Singtel.

“During the last [rights bidding] process [for the 2019-2022 seasons], we invested a lot of time and resources in building our expertise and capacity in direct-to-consumer,” Masters told reporters.

“We considered whether strategically it would be the right time to test a few markets then and decided not to.

“We were ready last time and we will be ready next time, should the opportunity arise. I’m not saying it will happen in the next cycle, or when it will happen, but eventually the Premier League will move to a mix of direct-to-consumer and media rights sales.

“There is risk associated with it. Sports competitions like the Premier League have been successful in seeking partnerships with established broadcasters and having to secure funding as its model. Secured licensed revenue and direct-to-consumer revenue are entirely different strategies – the transition from one to the other, if and when it ever happens, would be a big moment.”

The Premier League suffered a slight drop in the value of its domestic rights during the last sales process, but an uptick overseas saw the competition bring in a total UK£9.2 billion (AU$17.7 billion) for the three-year cycle from 2019 to 2022, representing an increase of eight per cent.

They have already started selling rights for the 2022 to 2025 cycle. Swedish media giant Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group) was the first to announce a deal last week, signing a landmark six-year contract covering Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland which was reported by UK media to be worth a whopping UK£2 billion (AU$3.8 billion).

“We have every reason to be optimistic about the future of sports rights,” Masters said.

“I don’t think the bubble has burst because our business is effectively hedged between domestic performance and international.

“The domestic rights did go down by a small margin last time round, but off the back of two big leaps. International revenue has continued to grow and I have no reason to believe it won’t continue to do so.”

However, according to analysis by the Daily Mail, the Premier League could stand to significantly increase its revenue by switching from traditional media rights sales to a global OTT service.

Based on the estimation that the Premier League has 200 million fans worldwide currently paying to watch the competition, the UK newspaper calculated that a UK£10 monthly subscription would theoretically see the league rake in UK£24 billion (AU$46.3 billion) each year.

The Premier League would not be the first major European soccer rights holder to launch its own OTT service. UEFA, the continental governing body, launched its free Uefa.tv service last year, while Spain’s La Liga runs LaLigaSportsTV, which aims to boost the visibility and exposure of all Spanish sport, while it also streamed a number of major pre-season soccer games last summer.

Next season Germany’s Bundesliga is launching an OTT platform for live matches in key markets where it does not receive an adequate rights bid.

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Acun Medya Group secures Hull City takeover

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, headed by Acun Ilicali.

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, for a fee in the reported region of $37 million AUD.

Acun Ilicali, a 52-year-old businessman and owner of Acun Medya Group, was introduced to fans at the MKM Stadium prior to the club’s 2-0 win at home over Blackburn Rovers.

The takeover brings the controversial ownership of the Allam family to an end, much to the delight of fans after a roller coaster 11 years in charge.

Despite overseeing two promotions to the Premier League, an FA Cup Final and Hull’s first-ever foray into a European competition through the UEFA Europa League in 2014, the Allam family became increasingly unpopular with the fans.

The unpopularity of the Allam family is due to many different reasons, however it all started when the family proposed a name change to ‘Hull Tigers’ back in 2013. The move was ultimately blocked by authorities a year later, which frustrated the Allams and they then put the club up for sale, straining the relationship with fans and seeing a decline in attendances at home fixtures.

The new ownership will look to win back supporters and turn the negative tide.

Acun Medya Group Owner, Acun Ilicali:

“I am happy that I have fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. We are starting a beautiful journey with Hull City. We have many big dreams and goals to achieve together with our fans,” he said.

Outgoing Vice-Chairman Ehab Allam:

“During our tenure, we have worked hard to create a sustainable model and successful academy set-up, giving the club the foundations it needs for the future,” he said.

“There have been lots of ups and downs over the last 11 years or so, but we will take some very fond memories with us… We have taken a very business-led approach to running the club and I truly hope Acun can rebuild the relationship with the fanbase and also bring back the success on the pitch that fans crave and deserve.”

Hertha Berlin pushing hard for stadium upgrade

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to the Olympiastadion.

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to its current home, the Olympiastadion, releasing fresh renderings of its vision for such a project.

The club has been attempting to progress plans to develop a new home for several years and in February 2020 stated that the OlympiaPark would be the preferred location.

In November 2018, Hertha confirmed it was targeting an opening date in July 2025 for a new-look Olympiastadion, with preference to be building a completely new stadium rather than renovating the current one.

The current Olympiastadion has been home to Hertha Berlin for almost 60 years, and has a capacity of around 74,000. However, the club is seeking a more intimate stadium for its fans, as well as the inclusion of an athletics track.

Hertha’s former stadium commissioner, Klaus Teichert, withdrew an application for a decision to be made on the location for a new stadium, with Brandenburg also put forward as a potential location.

Hertha Berlin Chief Financial Officer, Ingo Schiller:

“We have entered into talks with the new government and are working hard to set the course for our new stadium in 2022,” he said.

“The stadium is the club’s most important project, especially in terms of the economic situation.”

There is a lot of political support necessary for the project to get approved, as the potential worksite currently includes residential apartments, a big reason for negotiations coming to a stall at times.

A resident spoke to local radio station rbb24:

“You talk about ir, but not with us. We are still not prepared to sell our apartments in Sportforumstraße or to negotiate about them,” they said.

“It is very unfortunate that our residents in Sportforumstraße are once again unsettled by this uncoordinated approach.”

Hertha Berlin and backers of the new stadium have been in negotiation with Berlin’s sports senator, Iris Spranger, with talks to continue over the next month.

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