Despite pressures on the broadcasting sector, sports rights expenditure has nearly doubled over the last six years, according to new research.
The research, from Ampere Analysis, finds that over one quarter of all content spend worldwide is devoted to sports rights. In 2018, 26% of global content spend was focused on sports rights acquisition at a value of nearly $38bn.
This figure has almost doubled from $20bn in 2012. Put another way, one in every 10 dollars generated by TV companies** around the world ends up with sports rights bodies. Despite the size of the sports rights market, and ongoing pressures from online video platforms, Ampere Analysis anticipates room for growth in the sector not just from emerging markets, but also within established and developed territories like the EU big five and the US.
- In 2018, broadcasters and pay TV operators in the EU big five markets (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain) devoted an average of 33% of content spending to sport, while in the US, the figure was 26%.
- In the last six years, the sports rights market in the EU big five markets doubled, reaching €10bn in 2018.
- In Europe, pay TV operators such as Sky and Telefonica are the biggest drivers of investment in sports rights, accounting for over 60% of expenditure. New OTT players, although gaining ground, are still minority players in terms over their overall spend.
- Public broadcasters invest an average of 10% of their content budgets on sports rights, while commercial broadcasters such as ITV, RTL and TF1 invest 25%.
- The strong domestic competitions such as Ligue 1, Bundesliga and La Liga in the EU big five and the NFL, NBA, and MLB in the US are the main drivers of the high sports spend values. But in major European markets, although these competitions account for over half of sports rights spend, secondary events and competitions have also benefited from the recent increase in rights expenditure – maintaining the same pace of growth as the major leagues.
- Despite having a smaller population and fewer households than Western Europe, the TV industry in the US is much larger in terms of revenues, and this is reflected in sports spend. US groups spend $19bn per year on sports rights – and this is set to increase as the major competitions enter new rights cycles.
Focus on North America
North America’s high sports spend is driven by lucrative deals with the big three US leagues of NFL, NBA and MLB. Although in absolute terms, US spend on sports rights is much higher than any other market globally, a smaller proportion of TV revenue is currently devoted to sports rights than in the major Western European markets. 11% of US TV industry turnover ends up with sports rights bodies, compared with an average of 17% in major Western European markets. However, this is likely to change as the new rights cycles for NFL, MLB and later the NBA, begin to kick in. Ampere Analysis expects the top leagues to be able to generate a further $4bn per year in rights revenues by the end of the next six years.
Focus on EU big 5
Although growth in rights values for the major leagues (Ligue 1, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A) has grabbed headlines, Ampere’s research suggests secondary competitions have also benefited from the sector’s growth. Smaller competitions have maintained a steady share of 44% of sports rights expenditure – even as the industry doubled in value.
Alexios Dimitropoulos, Senior Analyst at Ampere Analysis says: “Even as major leagues turn their attention to international markets outside Western Europe and the US, our analysis shows that there is still opportunity left for many of the major competitions in their domestic markets. Although there are significant competitive pressures on TV revenues due to the rise of new online competitors, the impending direct-to-consumer fragmentation of the market may also open up opportunities for sports rights bodies – who will increasingly hold some of the few premium rights that money can still buy.”