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Business News/ News / India/  Sony renews exclusive media rights deal with UEFA for 3 years
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Sony renews exclusive media rights deal with UEFA for 3 years

Between UEFA, Bundesliga, FA Cup, Saudi Pro League, Durand Cup, and DFB Pokal (German Cup), Sony will have over 1,000 football matches every year.

Following the renewal, Sony Sports Network now holds rights to most of the popular football events. (Photo: AFP) (AFP)Premium
Following the renewal, Sony Sports Network now holds rights to most of the popular football events. (Photo: AFP) (AFP)

Mumbai: Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) has renewed its exclusive media rights deal with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) for another three seasons until 2026-2027. 

As part of the agreement, the broadcaster will be airing over 1,600 football matches, spanning the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Conference League, UEFA Super Cup, and UEFA Youth League, across its channels for three seasons.

Sony and UEFA did not disclose the financial details of the agreement. However, they said that the idea is to bolster the popularity of football, the third most watched sport in India, after cricket and kabaddi.

Following the renewal, Sony Sports Network now holds rights to most of the popular football events, excluding the English Premier League (EPL) and FIFA tournaments. Media rights for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is yet to be sold.

Rajesh Kaul, chief revenue officer, distribution and international business, and head, sports business, SPNI, said the network has a longstanding commitment to showcasing the finest football content.

“Since 2020, UEFA Champions League viewership in India has surged by over 51%, attributed largely to the introduction of regional language commentary. With the forthcoming transition to a new format, featuring over 125 additional matches and up to 38 early kickoff matches per season tailored for Indian audiences, we are confident that this growth will gain momentum further. As the 'Home of Football' in India, we eagerly anticipate showcasing over 1,600 highly competitive football matches across these leagues to our viewers." 

Between UEFA, Bundesliga, FA Cup, Saudi Pro League, Durand Cup, and DFB Pokal (German Cup), Sony Sports Network will live telecast and stream over 1,000 football matches every year, added Kaul. “It also helps to get distribution and subscription revenues for linear TV and OTT service, SonyLIV."

UEFA properties feature some of the most popular European clubs, such as Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.

In the upcoming season, the UEFA Champions League will adopt a new format, incorporating four additional clubs, bringing the total to 36 participating teams. This single-league structure will rank all competing clubs together, enhancing the excitement of the tournament and providing fans with more matches between top teams.

Furthermore, UEFA's leading club competitions will no longer feature a break in January, ensuring uninterrupted European club football from August to May.

“There is a big vision in India for the development of football, going forward, and we should piggyback on that to grow our presence here. We can see that the size of the market is huge. We are not the number one sport. I guess we are in the top three together with cricket and Kabaddi. But we are looking okay in certain regions. And, even if we were to reach 10% of the population, it's far more than any country in Europe. So, it's a huge opportunity," Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA Events SA marketing director, UEFA, told Mint that he sees huge potential in India.

UEFA has been with Sony for the last seven years. Before that, it was with Ten Sports, which was acquired by Sony. Overall, the partnership between the broadcaster and UEFA has been over 15 years.

“If we look at audiences, and the commercial value compared to other markets, it is not massive, but we can see a great opportunity if we can grow the interest. And for our partners locally, I can tell you that our sponsors are very keen that we go strong in India because everybody has India, in their mind. We have a deal now until 2027, for the club competitions, and within the next three to four years, we hope to see a significant increase in our regional audience in the market," Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA Events SA marketing director, UEFA, told Mint.

When asked about the impact of cricket on the value and competitiveness of other sports, Epstein said cricket does not hinder commercial success, and there were ample opportunities in the market for all sports to thrive.

“The market is so big that there is an opportunity all across the subcontinent. The biggest challenge for us is to grow our exposure, to grow our interest in the competition, and to make sure that people get into football for more. And I can see that there is a willingness not only from us but from the local authorities to make professional football a major sport in the country."

However, Epstein pointed out that considering the size of India and its FIFA ranking (117), the balance seems unfavorable. “I think there is a big vision to make sure that because of the space or the position of India in the world, that the performance, interest and the development of football in India will grow in the coming years. We want to help this development. We want to support it, we want to participate in it. And of course, partners of ours like the Premier League will be also very helpful for the further development of football here."

For Sony Sports Network, football is one of the biggest impact properties in India after cricket and WWE. Kaul said that both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League enjoy high levels of loyalty. In terms of average viewership per match and engagement for European club football, they have the highest ratings after the English Premier League.

Furthermore, viewer interest in UEFA Champions League football has been growing consistently over the years, and its reach increased by close to 50% during the recent 2022-23 season compared to 2020-21, according to BARC data.

“Our initiative of doing local language commentary has helped grow the sampling base for the UEFA Champions League. Over the last three years, the incremental reach contributed by the regional coverage has increased from 25% in the 2020/21 season ago to 38% in the last season," Kaul said. 

According to the broadcaster, the coverage of live matches in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu collectively attracted 1 million viewers during the 2022/23 season.

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Published: 04 Mar 2024, 12:00 AM IST
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