Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Covering Sports in Latin America

The fierce battle over sports media rights.

Until recently, sports media rights in Latin America have gotten little attention due to their relatively low value compared to other parts of the world. However, as the region hosts more sporting events and the overall economy grows, coupled with an increase in Latin American athletes competing in Europe and North America, the sports media landscape in Latin America is quickly shifting.

Currently, the sports media rights market in Latin America represents only 4 percent of the total global sports expenditure. However, based on a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Latin America will be the fastest-growing region for sports media rights from 2010 to 2013.

According to a study by
ZenithOptimedia, the increase in the television audience in developing markets such as Latin America means that such markets will increase their share of global advertising expenditure from 30.9 percent in 2010 to 35.1 percent in 2013. Brazil (40 percent) and Mexico (18 percent) accounted for the vast majority of advertisements in the region during 2009. Internet advertising in Latin America continues to grow at a breakneck pace, with a projected average growth rate of 14.4 percent annually between 2010 and 2013. In dollar terms, this amounts to a total increase in spending from $63 billion to $94.5 billion over the same period.

Although rights to football dominate, other sports, including Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), golf and tennis, are expanding coverage, and media rights—both the numbers of markets vying for them and the media competing for them—for the Olympic Games significantly increased.

It is worth noting that the competition for Spanish-language media rights in the U.S. has also increased as the Spanish-speaking market in that country grows in size and buying power. The major players include Univision, Telemundo, Fox Deportes, and ESPN Deportes. ESPN Deportes is currently the highest-rated Spanish-language sport cable network in the United States. The fee for the U.S. Spanish-language World Cup media rights (2007–2014) paid by Univision was $325 million, compared to the $100 million fee paid for the English-language media rights by ABC/ESPN.

With the advance of technology, the scope of sports media rights now includes broadcast (free-to-air and paid), radio, Internet, and mobile. Sports media rights are sold by sport properties (leagues, events and governing bodies) directly to networks or through intermediary companies, which guarantee a fee to the sport property for its commercial rights and bear the risk of selling the assets for a greater value. Sports media rights can be sold by country or region on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. The rights can also be sold in packages, including for multiple years and events or for individual events. The rights can be bundled together (television, Internet and mobile) and awarded to one company, or sold independently.

For example, packages sold by the governing body of football in Europe, the Union of European Football Association (UEFA), include live and delayed broadcasts as well as Internet and mobile rights for both the Euro 2012 and Euro 2016 Championship tournaments, and for the 2011 and 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and the UEFA Women’s Euro 2013 tournament. The UEFA media rights have been awarded in Mexico to the Organización de Televisión Iberoamericana, an organization of television networks in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, to Meridiano TV in Venezuela and to Televideo Services for all other Latin American markets excluding Brazil, where Globo TV had already concluded a deal.

Another example is Terra, a Telefónica subsidiary that has secured the exclusive Internet rights for Olympic content in Latin America except for Brazil, where the Internet rights are packaged with the official broadcast company. ESPN negotiated National Basketball Association (NBA) nonexclusive rights in Latin America as part of their global NBA contract, which they have the right to sublicense to other countries. Turner Broadcasting negotiated rights to distribute NBA games in Latin America, excluding playoffs, through its sports channel Space. Fox Sports subleases its Major League Baseball (MLB) rights to Fox Sports Latin America. Because of the market sizes of Brazil and Mexico, separate deals are often negotiated with these two countries.

Despite efforts by some governments to keep sports programming on free-to-air television, sports properties now often see greater revenue opportunities for their media rights from paid-for television broadcasters that enjoy a dual revenue model of subscriptions and advertisements, than from traditional broadcasters that depend solely on advertising revenue.

In fact, international rights fees are helping major sports properties located in mature, slower-growth markets (Premier League, Champions League and Super Bowl) increase their overall broadcast revenues. As such, there are few exclusive broadcast deals negotiated in Latin America, but rather a number of shared rights deals that ultimately dilute ratings yet increase revenues for the sports properties…


Tags: Jeffrey Bliss, Lisa Delpy Neirotti, Sports Media
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