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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 a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

Player sentiment up, average age down: PFA releases annual report

Sentiment is well and truly up for A-League players, according to the annual Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) report.

This time last year, only 33% of A-League players felt confident about the direction of their football careers.

According to the PFA’s latest annual report, that number is now 56%.

Of the A-League’s 312 players, 200 responded to the 2020/21 A-League survey, capturing 70% of the current cohort, with the results proving that even despite the ongoing turbulence and uncertainty of COVID-19, the majority of players feel much more confident about their futures within the game.

The report highlights that Australian players actively want to remain in the A-League, as opposed to seeking opportunities overseas.

The key numbers that demonstrate this include:

  • 55% of players said they would like to stay playing in the A-League next season, up from 45% last year.
  • 56% of players are confident about the direction of their football careers, compared to 33% in 2019/20.
  • Only 4% of players would move to an overseas league even if it was for similar money and/or playing standard.
  • Only 16% of players who would prefer to move to an overseas league would only do so if the money and standards were better.

Other highlights of the report include that the average A-League player is getting younger.

Over the last 14 years, the average age of the A-League player has consistently trended upwards.

In 2020/21, however, this changed and the average age trended downwards, dropping from 27.6 to 25.1.

The number of players utilised in the A-League who were aged 21 and under came in at 107, representing 35% of the 300 players who received A-League minutes during the 2020/21 season.

The youngest squads on average belonged to Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United, with average ages of 23.6 and 23.9 years respectively.

Another highlight was the fact that of the league’s 312 contracted players, 300 received A-League minutes.

“These reports have been immensely valuable, helping the PFA and the players better understand the industry in which they are employed, monitor the application of high-performance standards, assess technical progress and survey the players’ experience,” PFA Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch said of the report.

“For the last five years, we have been able to utilise these reports to formulate evidence-based positions to improve the environments in which our members work through collective bargaining.

“Promisingly, after a period of significant uncertainty, the players have indicated that they are more confident in the direction of their careers and the future of the competition than this time last year, signifying a positive shift in the perception of the A-League.”

The report also highlights the fact that A-League attendances were the lowest ever in the competition, thanks in large part to COVID-19, with an average attendance of 5,660.

Foreign players in the league reduced by 12 to a total of 51, whilst the average salary in the A-League is $136,791.

Access the full report HERE.

DFL and AWS introduce two new Match Facts to Bundesliga coverage

Bundesliga analysis

The Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced the addition of two new Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS that will premiere as graphics during broadcasts and in the official Bundesliga app during the 2021-2022 season.

The two new Match Facts – Shot Efficiency and Passing Profile – will bring the total number of advanced statistics to eight, with each of them aiming to give fans deeper insights into the action on the pitch.

The first of the new advanced stats – Shot Efficiency – compares the number of goals that a player or team has scored with how many goals the player or team should have scored based on the quality of their chances.

The second – Passing Profile – provides deeper insights into the pass quality of a player or an entire team. Both of the stats are generated by gathering and analysing the match feeds from live games in real time as they are streamed into AWS.

Both new stats made their debut during Matchday 4 on the clash between German Champion FC Bayern München and the second-placed team of the previous season RB Leipzig.

The two new Match Facts will better showcase the action on the field – giving fans, coaches, players, and commentators visual support for analysing the decision-making of players and teams.

Andreas Heyden, Executive Vice President of Digital Innovations for DFL Group, was excited to further innovate the matchday experience for viewers based both domestically and internationally.

“Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS allows us to give fans more insight into the game of football, broadcasters more interesting stories to tell and coaches and teams, more data to excel at their game,” he said.

“Last year, the reception for Bundesliga Match Facts around the world was very positive, and we expect through ML and AI to continue to innovate on these analytics to make them even better.

“These two new stats give fans a view into player efficiency that hasn’t been achieved before, and we are just at the beginning of our relationship with AWS. I’m excited to see how technology will continue to evolve the fan experience and the game.”

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