As the new football championship begins, Massimo, D’Amario, the new CEO of Eleven Sports, the media rights holder, gives L’Echo its first interview.
Massimo D’Amario has just been appointed head ofEleven Sportsthe Belgian football media rights holder, replacing Guillaume Collard, left to manage RTL Belgium. This neo-quinqua, passed by JP Morgan and Proximus, joined Eleven in 2019 to take care of the acquisition of rights. With his predecessor, he negotiated those of Belgian football in 2020. While the championship resumes tonight with the Standard-La Gantoise match, it takes stock of various cases.
How is Eleven Sports doing on the eve of the new season?
“The most followed club remains Anderlecht, even if the Union is stuck in the top 3. In short, it will be a big challenge to do better, unless Standard raises its head. Because as soon as it performs well, audiences are on the rise again in the south of the country.”
Very well. We thought that the end of the games behind closed doors was going to do us a disservice; it was the opposite. Our audiences have increased by 10 to 15% in the last season. We thus captured up to 315,000 viewers during the play-off match between Anderlecht and FC Bruges. In terms of market share, the duel for the title between Union and FC Bruges attracted 34% of viewers in the north of the country. For a paid channel, it’s huge. The most followed club remains Anderlecht, even if the Union is stuck in the top 3. In short, it will be a big challenge to do better, unless the Standard raises its head. Because as soon as he performs well, audiences start to rise again in the south of the country.
Are we seeing the same growth in advertising revenue?
No, even if they are progressing. Many advertisers have reserved their advertising budget for the World Cup in November-December.
Financially, how did the last financial year end?
It just ended on June 30. We finish in the same areas as last year (123.7 million euros in turnover, 4.2 million in net profit, editor’s note) with a slight drop in profit. In the context that we have experienced over the past two years with covid, it is very satisfying.
What are your ambitions for the coming season?
“We also want to strengthen our partnership with the Pro League and help it become an entertainment organization and not just an administrative body.”
First of all develop content although, apart from the Champions League and the English Premier League, we have the best offer on the market. We also want to strengthen our partnership with the Pro League and help it become an entertainment organization and not just an administrative body. How? Continuing, for example, to innovate in production with our partners Mediapro, Woestijnvis and Proximus. Last Sunday, during the Super Cup match between FC Bruges and La Gantoise, we made a first production test in 5G and broadcast the match on Tik Tok, with a vertical smartphone format and more offbeat comments, suitable for a young audience. If we want to attract a younger audience, we will have to create this kind of content. Next, we want to make our content also available to clubs to activate their supporters. Anderlecht, for example, has just launched an offer at 25 euros per year for its fans. Maybe they will need our content to enrich it.
The cafe owners are not happy, because they will now have to pay a license to broadcast your programs. How do you answer them?
When we acquired the Belgian football rights in 2020, these also included the broadcasting rights in the cafes and public places. We haven’t exercised them for two years due to the sanitary restrictions that have affected the café owners. This is no longer the case today. That said, it’s also an opportunity for them. We offer tools such as the “foot bar” app allowing bars to activate their customers through commercial actions. It must be a win-win.
In a year, the championship formula will change again with two fewer clubs in D1A in order to lighten the schedule. With what consequences for Eleven?
The most important thing for us is format stability. We are already at three changes in two years, D1A and D1B together. This prevents us from exploiting our rights in the best possible commercial way. Any change also has a big impact on our production costs. In D1B for example, we will have to produce 80 additional matches. These are elements that the Pro League will have to take into account.
A few months ago, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) imposed a hefty fine of 500,000 euros on Eleven for not having registered with its services. Where is this file?
We dispute the position of the CSA. Since our launch in 2015, we have been regulated by BIPT alone, because our offer is identical on both sides of the linguistic border, apart of course from the language. In Flanders, the VRM, the equivalent of the CSA, did not flinch. We have therefore introduced a request for annulment of the sanction before the Council of State.
Could the rights to the Champions League, which expires in 2024, and the English Premier League interest you?
We look carefully at each call for tender launched on the market. But it has to be interesting on the programming side. If we were to have the English championship, we would have to create new channels, because we don’t have enough space. And then, we have to be able to recoup this investment with the telecom operators who are our customers. For the Champions League, it is currently broadcast partly free of charge in Belgium. Along with Portugal and Switzerland, Belgium is the only country in this case. As a paid channel, it would therefore be difficult to monetize on the advertising market.
What about the rumors of your parent company being taken over by DAZN?
We do not comment.
The key phrases
- “In terms of audience, it’s going to be a huge challenge to do better than last season. Unless Standard raises its head again.”
- “If we want to attract a younger audience, we will have to create content for platforms like TikTok.”
- “We are already at three championship format changes in two years, D1A and D1B together. This prevents us from exploiting our rights in the best possible way commercially.”
- “We really want to help the Pro League become an entertainment organization and not just an administrative body.”