February 27, 2018 / 1:11 PM / 19 days ago

Soccer: Battle heats up for TV rights in Spain

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Production company Mediapro is to open up an auction for the broadcasting rights to the Champions and Europa League in Spain.

Spanish film producer and Mediapro Chairman Jaume Roures attends a news conference to promote the film "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" in Barcelona August 27, 2009. REUTERS/Albert Gea

After narrowly seeing off telecommunications giants Telefonica last year for the rights to the next three seasons of UEFA club competition, Mediapro, through its joint venture with Al Jazeera Bein Sports, is looking to make a profit on its investment.

“We’ll ask for offers to be sent to us at the beginning of March,” Mediapro President Jaume Roures told Reuters. “Then at the start of April, we’ll see where the genuine interest is.” Online streaming giants Netflix and Amazon could also become involved in the bidding, although there are doubts on a technical level as to whether they could stream matches live to millions of customers. If they were able to do so it would be a landmark moment in the market.

Telefonica said last week it would be willing to partner with Netflix and Amazon should they wish to bid for the TV rights to La Liga.

The Spanish league’s rights for 2019 through to 2022 will be sold off over the coming months. La Liga president Javier Tebas said he wants to secure 1.3 billion euros ($1.6 billion) annually for the rights - a 30 percent increase on the last round.

As was recently seen in the English Premier League’s TV rights auction, however, Sky paid 16 percent less than it did the previous time, meaning Tebas’s plan is optimistic.

“Mediapro now seems to be trying to generate interest in the football rights from new over-the-top (OTT) players, but the lack of OTT interest in the recent UK Premier League, a bigger and English-speaking market, suggests global OTT players such as Amazon are even less likely to bid for Spanish domestic football rights,” Credit Suisse said in a report.

Telefonica has the majority of the three million subscribers to Spanish football, with Vodafone and Orange possessing about 400,000 each.

Reporting by Andres Gonzalez, Editing by Ed Osmond

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