Telefonica Buys Spanish Soccer Rights for $660 Million

AP Photo/Alberto Saiz

The Spanish league boasts soccer giants like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Telefonica has bought the rights to Spain’s star-studded professional soccer league for $660 million (€600 million) for the 2015-16 season in Spain as it looks to strengthen its position as the reigning heavyweight in Spain’s pay TV market.

Soccer greats like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo star in the league that boasts scores of famous international players and includes two of the richest teams in the world: Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The league has long lobbied for the ability to sell the rights collectively as is done in other European countries.

The deal, which is only slightly higher than what the rights sold for last year, is the first of its kind as it sees the Spanish league, LFP, sell the rights to its top two divisions collectively rather than each team handling its own rights.

But for Telefonica the move was crucial to strengthening its content in one of its key markets. On July 8, Telefonica launched its newly branded Telefonica + platform from the freshly merged Telefonica services with pay TV stalwart Canal Plus Spain. In order for the merger to meet approval requirements, Telefonica will have to offer some match rights to other providers.

But the ability to see most of the biggest matches all on one platform should boost Telefonica’s newly minted service, which accounts for 80 percent of the market already.

Soccer-crazed Spain also sports an underdeveloped pay TV market, with only a third of households paying for a subscription. Telefonica is hoping to bolster the market, which has sagged under rampant piracy and a financial crisis.

LFP president Javier Tebas has estimated the league could earn another $666 million (€600 million) off international rights for the league’s rights. Though no deal has been announced, it is widely reported that Spanish media group Mediapro will buy the rights.