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Facebook opts not to renew Champions League and La Liga contracts

Company believes traditional media rights deals ‘aren’t compatible’ with its video business model.

4 March 2021 Sam Carp

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  • Rob Shaw, Facebook’s director of sports league and media partnerships, confirms that company did not bid to extend deals
  • Shaw writes in Sportico op-ed that traditional media rights deals will not ‘create the most sustainable value’ for the industry
  • Facebook focused on a model which relies more on ‘establishing a direct relationship with consumers’, says Shaw

Facebook has decided not to renew its soccer media rights deals for the Uefa Champions League in Latin America and Spain’s La Liga in India, according to Rob Shaw, the company’s director of sports league and media partnerships.

Both contracts, which were signed in 2018, are due to expire this year, and Shaw confirmed in an op-ed on the Sportico website that the social media giant did not enter a bid to extend the agreements. 

‘We still have excellent partnerships with these leagues, but the reality is that traditional media rights deals like these aren’t compatible with our current video business model,’ Shaw wrote. ‘We also don’t think they’ll create the most sustainable value for the industry moving forward.’

Facebook’s three-year Champions League deal covered exclusive free-to-air rights for 32 live matches each season from European club soccer’s premier competition, while its partnership with La Liga included every match in Spain’s top flight between the 2018/19 and 2020/21 campaigns.

At the time, the pair of broadcast partnerships represented two of Facebook’s first major forays into live streaming and the company was widely being tipped to become a significant player in the sports rights landscape. 

However, Shaw said that Facebook now believes the future of free-to-air distribution will ‘fuel a promising new business model for leagues and networks’, which will rely more on ‘establishing a direct relationship with consumers’ rather than on rights fees.

‘Admittedly, it isn’t mature enough yet to replace what the NFL, Uefa and La Liga will earn from their next television deals. But it can complement the current media rights model,’ Shaw wrote. ‘And it’s especially relevant for the countless rights holders that don’t generate significant TV rights fees.’

Facebook’s decision not to renew with Uefa and La Liga is not surprising given previous reports suggesting that the company would be pulling back on the purchase of live sports rights. 

Speaking in 2019, Peter Hutton, Facebook’s director of global sports partnerships, suggested that the company was not planning to make significant bids for premium sports coverage anytime soon.

“Our position changes as the platform changes, but I am certainly not expecting any huge investments in sports rights in the near future,” he said. “I know that people always talk about the big [technology] giants coming and that life is changing. Who knows? Maybe one day, but certainly not today.”

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