With CBS acquiring the Champions League English-language rights for seasons 2021/22 through 2023/24, the president of Turner Sports recently described his disappointment at losing the rights renewal.
“Our goal wasn’t to let it go,” said Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels. “We really did have a five, six, ten year plan and now we just have to start over.
“UEFA fits perfect with B/R Live. We love it, we love them, we thought it was great. We made a very significant offer to renew it. Somebody else found that they could offer significantly more than our significant offer and they wanted it. So good luck, we’ll see what happens.”
A source to World Soccer Talk said that CBS Sports paid $110 million/year for the rights. In comparison, Turner Sports were reportedly paying $60 million a year.
When asked about the challenge of trying to develop momentum for coverage of the UEFA Champions League on TNT especially when Turner Sports found out it had lost the rights for the next three-year deal 18 months into its current deal, Daniels went into more detail.
“Yes. I think [UEFA] know it and then we know it. I think everybody knows it. There’s a reason they do three year increments. They have an agency called TEAM who actually does it for them. I don’t think they think it’s the best way to operate either. It’s really hard.
“I mean, we’re not even halfway through [our three-year rights deal] and we [were] already bidding on the next one. It makes it really difficult. So I think [UEFA and Team] are going to look at that and figure out a way to fix it. But there’s a very technical reason why they have to do it and how they actually connect with all the clubs that are out there.”
Daniels shared the example of TNT’s rights deal with the NCAA tournament that runs through 2032. Such a long-term agreement allows his teams to invest the time and resources necessary to do the best job at covering that competition.
Looking to the future, Daniels is keeping his options open to rights deals that are attractive to his audience.
“Bleacher Report will look for a different type of audience,” explained Daniels. “They have a different voice, and they’re trying to reach a different group of people. And so for that we will look at different types of rights that may come up.”
“It’s interesting because it’s hard to advertise in soccer, and it’s hard, especially with UEFA, you can’t really produce it the way we would produce it here in the States. It’s produced as a world feed. There are a lot of different things you have to look at when you deal with a league like that, so you have to be driving towards something else.
“In our case, we were trying to, obviously, drive subscriptions through B/R Live. But you have to take a very unique point of view, a longterm view, as to if that will work and how much money that’s worth doing. And we had a very specific way of looking at it, and we bid for it, and CBS bid what they thought.”
🗣️ 'The problem with OTT is making money. You're not getting paid for people not watching your stuff like you are with cable' – Lenny Daniels, Turner Sports president, on monetisation #OTTUSA20 pic.twitter.com/FV9JnnLsuG
— SportsPro Events (@SportsProEvents) February 19, 2020
When asked about some media companies having ulterior motives where they can lose money on the rights they purchase because they’re driving towards commerce or something else, Daniels replied, “Absolutely. We’re jealous of Amazon all day long. I mean, they’re driving towards a different thing that we don’t have. Hopefully, now with AT&T, we have that. And I think that’s what you’re going to see, and a direction that we’re going to go, is to look at how we drive strategies across this company. Whether it’s HBO Max, whether it’s driving people to sign up for broadband, whether it’s reducing churn, there’s a whole host of things that you could do across the AT&T portfolio that will allow you to bid more aggressively for rights than if we were just trying to buy them for a cable network, for example.”