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'Netflix of sport' Eleven Sports could close UK site after just four months

Eleven Sports hold the rights to La Liga, featuring Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
Eleven Sports hold the rights to La Liga, featuring Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

The “Netflix of sport” could close its UK website imminently after making huge losses and failing to attract enough subscribers.

Eleven Sports launched in the UK and Ireland just four months ago in August, holding rights to Spanish football’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A. It also broadcasts the Netherlands’ Eredivisie, Sweden’s Allsvenskan, and plans to show the Chinese Super League from 2019 onwards.

Subscribers can only watch the games online, and Eleven Sports has so far added just 50,000 customers, who each pay £5.99 monthly. That generates approximately £300,000 a month, not enough to support the business. Eleven Sports has not revealed the cost of the deal agreed with La Liga.

The company suffered a further blow when it lost its rights to the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), a mixed martial arts organisation. Eleven Sports failed to secure a broadcast agreement with any of Sky, BT and Virgin Media, leading UFC to pull out of the deal. UFC is now back in negotiations with BT, which previously held the rights.

The broadcaster now faces a struggle to cut costs in order to stay in business in the UK. It will try to reduce the payments due on its current deals, but otherwise it may have to close down its operations in Britain and Ireland.

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Should Eleven Sports not renegotiate successfully over rights to Serie A, then they will revert to IMG, who would expect to secure a deal with a different company. BT are the previous broadcaster for Serie A.

La Liga sells its rights directly, and would need to find a new partner for broadcast. For the last 20 years, Spanish football was broadcast on Sky Sports, but lost out to Eleven Sport in a new three-year deal.

An Eleven Sports spokesperson confirmed: “Without carriage agreements with the existing platforms, alongside the challenges posed by rampant piracy, the current market dynamics in the UK and Ireland are very hostile for new entrants. We are in discussion with our rights partners, La Liga and IMG, about how we can restructure our existing agreements in order to continue our current over-the-top service.”

Eleven Sports is controlled by Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani, and also operates in Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, Italy, Portugal, Singapore, the United States and Taiwan. The company aimed to become the “Netflix of sport” by streaming online.