PRESS RELEASE published on 01 Sep 2021

New report finds two thirds of sports fans reliant on free-to-air television

A new report, Sport on European TV: Maximising Commercial Value, has found that, while in the last decade, pay TV’s share of sports rights - by value - has grown by 20% in Western Europe, only one in three sport fans has access to premium sport channels.

Free-to-air channels reach over 800 million Europeans, leading to increased engagement in sport, a greater audience reach and better value for sponsors, according to a new report, commissioned by the EBU from Ampere Analysis.

For most sports, broadcast rights deals are fundamentally a trade-off between reach and revenue, the report stresses. The relative revenue mix is critical for sports rights holders.

The value of a sport’s sponsorship rights is linked to its reach. A minute of airtime exposure across free-to-air European TV is worth €220,000 equivalent commercial value for sponsors. But, when a sport moves from a free to a premium TV channel, its reach drops by an average of 68% amongst sport fans.

With free TV attracting a more diverse range of sponsors, it can be more lucrative for many sports. Tier 2 and 3 sports would require a 40+% uplift in the value of their broadcast rights to offset the value of free TV reach if they were to go pay only.

Director of Eurovision Sport Glen Killane said: “Sport federations need to consider the balance between their rights revenue and the increased reach – and accompanying sponsor value - they gain from working with free-to-air channels.

“Public service media can also help build sports’ brand and attract new fans to watch and participate.

“It’s particularly noticeable that demographic shifts mean younger audiences are especially hard to reach via traditional forms of paid TV distribution. Our Members’ VOD platforms, and our own work in providing digital exploitation solutions, offers new opportunities for sport federations to exploit all their rights beyond the confines of linear schedules.”

Formula E is just one sport that has seen substantial growth thanks to a combination of free-to-air exposure, digital strategies, and brand partnerships. Broadcast in Europe primarily by public service media organizations such as the BBC, Rai and RTVE, it has grown its global audience to around 411 million (2019) and its revenue has increased from $21 million in 2015 to $162 million, driven primarily by sponsorship and partnerships rather than broadcasting rights.

Ampere Analysis Research Director Richard Broughton said: "While every sport is at a different stage of development, and has different trade-offs to consider, it is nonetheless clear that sports federations face increasingly tough decisions around how their events should be televised. 

“The era of hyper-inflation of rights income is ending, and it is not obvious that streaming services will support the headline values which many rights owners are hoping for. Against this backdrop, rights strategy - and the associated pros and cons which accompany any individual deal - needs careful consideration.”

The report methodology included extensive quantitative consumer research, based on 21,000 interviews with European internet users across 12 markets, plus rights deal and revenue information compiled by the Ampere team, covering over 1,000 rights deals in Europe. 

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Claire Rainford
Manager of Communications

+41 22 717 2321