Funny rebound. Since the start of the season, basketball has been looking in vain for a place in the small skylight. A shame for a discipline which has just won silver and bronze in the men’s and women’s tournaments at the Tokyo Olympics.
The French championship? It has never been so high, with an effort to recruit clubs and the arrival of some welcome sizes. The Euroleague? It is the first time in six years that two French clubs have played elbows under its baskets with Asvel and Monaco. And yet nothing, if not through the small end of the telescope.
For the French championship, you have to zap on Sport en France, the channel of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, or track the regional stalls of France 3, to see one match per week for free. Otherwise, everything happens on the streaming platform of the National Basketball League (LNB), with an “OTT service” (content accessible via the Internet, on computer, tablet or smartphone) as we say in digital jargon. All the matches are broadcast there, but most of them are captured by automated cameras. For the Euroleague, it is also possible to subscribe to an equivalent service, but for 79 € per season.
Focus on the Internet and 100% free
This lack of visibility, is it serious doctor? Not if one believes Alain Béral, the president of the LNB. Who does not even want to hear about visibility at half mast: “Because it’s wrong, protests the leader. On our platform, we sometimes record audiences two or three times higher than those we had on matches broadcast by RMC Sport! “ Alain Béral is referring to the period 2015-2020, when basketball still benefited from a broadcaster paying 10 million euros per season for the French championship.
“Since the withdrawal of this partner, as no one offered us satisfactory exposure, we have chosen a free and unencrypted distribution, continues Alain Béral. We are betting on our OTT, which is quite unique in Europe, and we are going to improve its quality by investing in the production of premium matches. We will soon have to vote for an envelope of several hundred thousand euros for this purpose. “
Still, the absence of a broadcasting partner is also a loss of income, the LNB still distributing 7 million euros to clubs in 2019-2020, most of it coming from television rights. “We must recognize that basketball has missed the boat compared to sports such as rugby or handball, emphasizes Antoine Feuillet, lecturer and specialist in sports rights at the University of Paris-Saclay. Its product is subject to competition from the American championship, the NBA, and lacks attractiveness, with private clubs of the big stars who are precisely in the United States, and numbers that turn a lot and do not facilitate identification with the teams. “
A sports story to re-enchant
This marketing work around the product is still the poor relation of many sports. “For too long, the sports leagues have had it easy with broadcasters who fought to pay, rather expensive, a show broadcast live”, notes Arnaud Simon, former CEO of Eurosport and adviser to sports organizations through his company In & Out Stories.
«Except that today he continues, the channels are first thinking of reducing costs, and are now focusing only on a few flagship sports. The others must innovate, by launching OTT platforms of course, but also by offering more regular meetings, more diverse and more personalized content. The leagues have to be really active to think of an attractive product, and then slowly get the fan used to repaying. “
The modes of consumption of sport, in full upheaval, in fact destabilize the whole community. The great communions around live broadcasts are not yet a thing of the past, as the hearings of the last football Euro proved. “But it’s more complicated than before to capture the attention of the spectator on the whole of a match, assures Antoine Feuillet. Everyone, both broadcasters and leagues, must therefore think about re-enchanting the sports story, which has hardly changed for thirty years. “
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New stories exist, in Formula 1 in particular, with the documentary series Pilots of their destiny launched in 2019 by Netflix. The drivers, also very present on social networks, attract young spectators, long insensitive to the great automobile circus. The discipline is benefiting from a real renewed interest, as measured by the increase in Grand Prix audiences on Canal +. No doubt an example to think about, for basketball and others.
Difficulties, even for football
The call for tenders launched by the French Football Federation for the exclusive rights to the France team over the period 2022-2028 was not a great success. The two current broadcasters, TF1 and M6, offered only 2.5 million euros per match, against 3.5 million at the current price. The call for tenders is therefore unsuccessful for the time being. Remember that the matches of the Blues must be broadcast in the clear, which limits the suitors, and that TF1 and M6, pending marriage, also have no interest in raising the bill. “But above all, the channels no longer accept to lose money on certain products, and uncertainty therefore hangs over all television rights., comments academic Antoine Feuillet. For the France team, it may seem crazy, but it is the downward trend of the moment. “