Sky’s German Soccer Defeat Shows Streamers Are Taking Over

(Bloomberg) -- Comcast Corp.’s Sky dominated German coverage of Europe’s top club soccer competition for two decades. Now the streamers are taking over.

Billionaire Len Blavatnik’s DAZN and Inc. edged out Sky to secure exclusive rights to stream the UEFA Champions League to their German customers for three seasons from 2021.

The result shows streaming platforms are stepping up the challenge to traditional pay-TV companies that rely on prime sports coverage to retain customers.

For the first time, fans in a major European market will need access to a video-on-demand service to see what’s arguably the world’s most prestigious club tournament, featuring top clubs such as Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Manchester City.

Sky made every effort to retain the rights, said Carsten Schmidt, the chief executive officer of its German unit.

”We have an economically clear and responsible view of the value of sports rights,” he said in an emailed statement. “Keeping our customers also in mind, we were unwilling to go beyond the high value that we attach to these rights.”

Although financial terms weren’t disclosed, Schmidt’s comment suggests DAZN paid a full price, allowing UEFA to shower even more money on the mostly wealthy clubs that qualify for the continental tournament.

A representative for DAZN had no immediate comment.

Spending Splurge

Germany has been an important market for DAZN, which focuses mostly on live boxing in the U.S. and European soccer.

The company has spent lavishly to buy sports rights around the world, including a $1 billion partnership with Matchroom Boxing and a $365 million deal with boxer Canelo Alvarez, at the time the richest single-athlete contract in sports history.

In October, Bloomberg reported that DAZN was working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to raise at least $500 million to support its expansion efforts.

The Champions League loss puts Sky under greater pressure to retain exclusive rights to the Bundesliga, Germany’s domestic soccer league that’s still a key pay-TV selling point in Europe’s biggest economy. Those rights are going on sale next year.

Amazon has already secured a foothold in Sky’s crucial U.K. market and showed the first Premier League matches to millions of viewers on its Prime Video service last week without major technical glitches.

Fans praised the functions offered using Amazon’s streaming technology, such as options to analyze player performance statistics and the accuracy of passes and shots on goal.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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