Films pay their way on Spanish TV

Soccer rivalry holds back growth

MADRID — Spain’s soccer rights wars have allowed movies to overtake the sport as the main growth driver for Spanish pay TV content sales.

Last year, Spanish pay TV operators upped their pay-per-view and video-on-demand revenues 23.7% to Euros 227 million ($355.3 million), according to a report from Spain’s telco watchdog, Comision del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones.

As in recent years, soccer dominated pay TV content sales, repping 70.3% ($250.4 million) of retail operations. Subscriber movie buys reached $87 million, 24.4% of revenues.

Soccer revenues increased 15.3% compared with 2006, thanks to price rises. However, the number of soccer match purchases on PPV declined 4.4%.

The key to the drop is the face-off over soccer rights last summer between Spain’s leading pay TV operator Sogecable, owned of satellite platform Digital Plus, and Barcelona-based media rights broker Mediapro.

“During first half of 2007, the nail-biting finale to the soccer league season aided sales,” said a Madrid-based analyst.

“But PPV collapsed after the free-to-air broadcast by Mediapro co-owned broadcaster La Sexta of two or three games per week as part of the war.”

In contrast, film acquisitions grew 8.8% and revenues shot up 25.4%.

“There have been two main factors: Lower prices of new releases and the marketing success of multi-pic sales offers,” the analyst said.

From 2004 to 2007, film sales on Spanish pay TV have increased 58.3%, from 7.2 million pickups to 11.4 million, boosted by the launch in 2005 of Telefonica’s IPTV service Imagenio, which introduced true VOD into Spain.

Spanish pay TV operators earned $3.1 billion last year; 69% came from monthly subs fees, 11.3% from PPV and VOD, and 1.5% from advertising, the CMT stated.

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