Negotiations between Dutch cabler VodafoneZiggo and Disney, owner of the Dutch live football channels Fox Sports/Eredivisie Live, have reached deadlock, because a new carriage agreement would amount to a 300% increase in costs to the operator.
Carriage disputes are nothing new to the world of TV channels distribution – with the most recent example the spat between Discovery and the M7 Group, which led to the removal of all Discovery channels including Eurosport from the M7 platforms across Europe. However, the stand-off between VodafoneZiggo and Disney’s premium Fox Sports channels is a case apart – the broadcaster demands payment for all its customers, whether they subscribe to the premium channels or not.
The two parties have been negotiating for months now with no deal in sight. Problem for Disney/Fox is the fact that the broadcaster has deals in place with most other Dutch distributors including KPN, Canal Digitaal and T-Mobile (only Tele2 has no deal for live football) that involve payment for the entire universe of subscribers. Should VodafoneZiggo reach another deal with Disney/Fox, then the new conditions will automatically apply to all other carriage comtracts.
Eredivisie Live is owned by Disney, Eredivisie CV (a joint venture of Dutch football clubs) and the Dutch football association KNVB. The joint venture was launched in 2008 and according to local newspaper De Telegraaf has racked up losses to the tune of EUR250 million, and now only has five more seasons to turn its figures into black.
“Clubs will receive the same amount of money in our proposal as they got before”, said VodafoneZiggo’s Strategy Director Robin Kroes on Dutch NPO Radio. “In our proposal Disney receives a very healthy profit. We think that’s justified. But we are not going to pay more than we do now. That proposal is on the table.”
Kroes wants to avoid the live football channels going black. “We’ve made a very clear offer. We want our customers to be able to keep seeing football, but we won’t pay too much. That we also have to pay for those 3.5 million customers who don’t like football [is not acceptable].” Around 300,000 Vodafone custmers currently subscribe to Fox Eredivisie Live.
VodafoneZiggo’s final offer consists of all subscription payments for the channels going directly to Disney/Fox without charging a carriage fee to the broadcaster. In a reaction a spokesperson for Disney/Fox said “We ask nothing else than to continue the cooperation on the basis of the same agreements made with all other TV providers over four years ago.”
Meanwhile, more problems amount for Disney/Fox, as distributors including KPN have been in talks with the broadcaster for some time about paying distribution fees for Fox Sports. Because the Eredivisie in The Netherlands was shut down in mid-March due to the measures taken as a result of the corona crisis – and has since been definitively shut down – no live Eredivisie matches can be seen on the channels of Fox Sports. However, distributors do pay around EUR30 per subscriber per year to be able to the distribute the channels. According to distributors, the product purchased is therefore not (fully) supplied. Distributors would like to receive compensation for this.
Dutch public broadacster NOS also refuses to pay for the last instalment of the broadcasting rights. NOS buys the broadcasting rights of the summaries of Eredivisie matches. No Eredivisie means no summaries of matches on public service channels. NOS takes the view that no payment should be made for undelivered services.
According to De Telegraaf, the position of distributors and NOS is not supported by the broadcaster, who has treatened to go to court if talks with distributors and NOS about full payments for the 2019 – 2020 football season will break down.