Global trends in the broadcast of football - an interview with Gilles Mas


by Editorial Staff


by Editorial Staff

How much is the business of football worth?

Deloitte’s latest report, Football Money League, states that the 2017/18 season was dominated by Spanish La Liga’s giants Real Madrid, topping the ranking with a revenue of over 750 million Euros. Around 8.3 billion Euros were generated in revenue overall by the top twenty European clubs, nearly 43% of which related to the sale of TV rights. Most importantly the growth for the football business is consistent and considerable moving the needle of a market that just over twenty years ago (1996/97) was producing a combined revenue of just over 1.2 billion. In line with the general tendency of global sports, we’d argue

We sat down with Gilles Mas, President Global Football at Deltatre with over twenty years experience in the space, to get his thoughts on current trends in the broadcast of football, risks, and opportunities for an ever-growing industry.

#1. Let’s start at the top. What is the biggest trend that you’ve noticed in the football industry over the last 12 months?

"At first glance, the game experience itself has undoubtedly been enriched. There’s a number of breakthroughs in innovation. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, AI augmented player tracking, additional panoramic and subjective low cost cameras as well as technologies like the infamous VAR, have radically changed - or are in the process of changing - the entire approach to football for fans and how they consume the game."

"All of these innovations are in place to better seduce younger audiences. They help to modernise a paradigm and to appeal to an audience that is driving the shift from linear television to digital. Younger users today don’t necessarily relate to what worked in the past. They seek interactivity, gaming inherited formats,  short-form content, that “YouTube-ish” model that is now such a fundamental part of their way of consuming content."

"It’s not just the production and distribution of sport that has to modernise - it’s the sport itself. When you think about what it takes to engage fans on a deep level - rich storytelling - you realise there is a real need to identify new formats in which to produce content, to provide a specific sport or event with a deeper narrative. This is what allows any rights holder to capitalise their domestic market and use digital to move beyond national lines and reach different demographics."

#2. You mentioned a shift from linear to digital - where do broadcasters stand today when it comes to reaching young viewers?

“We are reaching a tipping point of rights acquisition. Broadcasters  are or soon will be unwilling to pay extremely high sums for rights they perceive as being of lesser value as less engaging for their consumers. As a consequence, the global spend in advertising is naturally drifting towards other more digital centric platforms. So we have a situation in which eyes are moving away, yet the content itself is getting more expensive. This, naturally, accelerates disruption and a trend that’s been in the air for five years where football organisation take ownership of their own digital strategies."

"Just look at what’s happened in the last twelve months. UEFA launched their own OTT platforms some weeks ago, FIFA is thinking about new formats for their competitions. On a national level, organisations such as the Premier League have interesting projects in the pipeline too. In general, more and more stakeholders across the value chain are taking the chance to experiment. No one saw the OTT revolution coming, but more new actors are moving to live sports. The perceived value of an owned and operated website (and by extension owned and operated full digital ecosystems) was minor until everyone started doing it. Just think of Amazon and their bespoke experimental offerings for single events and competitions, or Facebook moving to rights (trial) or Twitter a couple of years ago- it’s a new way of doing things. All of this is bringing different influences to the industry and changing its hallmarks progressively.”

#3. Where is technology investment primarily being spent by football leagues and operators?

“At this stage, there is a lot of curiosity around the use of data - this is the main source of investment that we see and as of now, it’s being used for media purposes because putting stats on-screen help create a deeper experience and enrich the value of the offering."

"There is also a lot of interest in the more consumer facing data side of digital platforms and CRM systems. How can we monetise audiences, is a question we’re often asked here at Deltatre. We know that a lot of operators out there are collecting data, but tying it together across platforms in a meaningful that that can be used practically? That’s a different ball-game and one that requires significant technical heavy-lifting from the provider to pull off effectively. After all, it’s one thing to understand your audience, but what’s the point if you can’t do anything about it?"

"The enhancement of VAR technologies is also causing waves, with an argument that it’s as much for the fans as it is for the referees. Leagues see it as a way to modernise the game, seduce audiences and make the product better and more enjoyable. People react to it in a way that enriches the overall experience." 

"Ultimately, the goal is - in general - to capture more content, understand your fan base, and add new tones of voices, all in a cost-effective way.“

#4. Where are the biggest opportunities hidden today?

“I am seeing an increasing interest in eSports  (even if you could debate if it is really sport), and many stakeholders are looking into ways to regulate it in order to better monetise on this growing medium. However, I believe that what the popularity of eSports will bring is a new way the rights owners to apply its gaming centric paradigms to their traditional ‘real sport’ productions.. Younger generations want to see players play and all the relevant stats that go with and enrich the action. There are a lot of tenders out there at the moment -should a league create their own tournaments or join existing ones? Creators of competitions now have to pay for the licenses to use specific trademarks (through game licenses), like to FIFA or UEFA, and this isn’t cheap. The number one question on the minds of everyone in the domain is “how do we make this worthwhile commercially?”

#5. Football is a global sport - yet America still remains relatively unconquered by Europe. Is this set to change? How?

“EMEA football is actually big in the United States - but it’s still got some way to go. The appeal for an American team during the past World Cup was big  (and check the popularity of the current US team at the FIFA Women World Cup!) and with the 2026 edition of the World Cup to be co-hosted by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, this will boost momentum behind the massive appeal for North American national teams. It’s something Europe is looking at with increasing interest. There have been speculations about a Champions League Final to be played outside Europe for a while now. UEFA might see great potential in exporting such a huge event to cultivate that growing appeal. The Canadian League, on the other hand, is also trying to boost its presence."

"Overall, American clubs are still small but will benefit from the global interest that comes from a global tournament. The main issue in the United States is that there is difficulty in creating interest and a strong following around a discipline that is still ‘alien’, or not recognised as a national sport just yet. Overcoming this cultural hurdle will be key to unlocking the potential of football in the States.”

Closing thoughts

This a snapshot into the big picture of an industry that is continuously evolving and, now more than ever, is investing heavily to expand its horizons - both from the point of view of technological innovation and from growing its global reach. With Asia and the Americas representing the ideal destination for European football, there are plenty of opportunities the market seems to be moving in pursuit of. From eSports to data, from VR/AR to enriched production and the enhancement of content generation, ultimately it is all about the content and pleasing fans. And that’s especially the case for younger audiences who will be the customers of the future.