Eleven Sports, the so-called “Netflix of Sports” may be on the brink of closure in the UK as the UFC triggers its right to walk away as the company has failed to secure distribution on Sky, Virgin or BT.
Eleven Sports, controlled by the Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani, has been a controversial play from the outset. Launched less than four months ago, it has the UK rights to sports including Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga and – until now – the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It was recently forced to stop its controversial practice of broadcasting European games on Saturday afternoons after pressure from rights holders and regulators – it is aiming to renegotiate rights deals to avoid pulling the plug on its service.
Without distribution on pay-TV platforms the service has, of course, struggled for subscribers – it is reported to be aiming to renegotiate its sports rights deals at a much cheaper rate to try to continue to operate a much smaller, commercially viable operation in the UK.
“Without carriage agreements with the existing platforms, alongside the challenges posed by rampant piracy, the current market dynamics in the UK & Ireland are very hostile for new entrants,” said the company. “We are in discussion with our rights partners, La Liga and IMG, about how we can restructure our existing agreements in order to continue our current OTT [streaming] service.”
Eleven Sports is reported to have attracted about 50,000 subscriptions since its UK launch in August, according to the Daily Telegraph. Eleven Sports charges £5.99 (€6.60) a month.