As Europe’s top football leagues launch their 2022/23 season campaigns, pressure to balance the books at the continent’s most prestigious clubs remains a top priority.
In the summer transfer window alone, LaLiga club Barcelona spent €153m euros, but that’s peanuts compared to the paychecks it hands to its top players. The club has a weekly payroll of €5.3m, of which more than 10% goes to Dutch player Frenkie de Jong. His weekly pay of €560,962 means that by the time his contract expires in 2026, Barcelona will have paid him €116,680,000.
For this reason, and a couple of dozen more just like it, Barcelona needs cash flooding in from fans buying tickets and premium TV subscriptions. According to LaLiga, the survival of the game is dependent on these revenues. When fans turn to pirate IPTV subscriptions to save money, they not only upset club accountants but also fund criminals providing ‘unreliable’ bootleg services.
Movistar and DAZN Deal Heralds New Era
Telefónica-owned Movistar Plus+ and DAZN were awarded LaLiga rights late last year in a five-year deal worth €4.95bn, with Movistar Plus+ later agreeing to pay DAZN €1.4bn to iron out broadcasting clashes. So, to help protect their investment, this month Movistar Plus+ and LaLiga obtained a court order to quickly block pirate IPTV services.
With fans’ ears ringing with LaLiga piracy warnings but soothed by the benefits of going legal, the stage was set last weekend for Barcelona vs. Rayo Vallecano and the launch of the Movistar/DAZN partnership.
From multiple angles, things went badly. Movistar Plus+ subscribers were told that they could not access DAZN content through their existing app and were told to download an additional app from DAZN.
“You will see the DAZN [matches] in their app: if you have DAZN included in your offer, you only have to create your account,” Movistar Plus+ tweeted on Saturday. “It’s very easy.”
It should’ve been easy – easier than buying a pirate IPTV service for sure – but it wasn’t.
Having already signed up for one service, Movistar Plus+ subscribers found that in order to download the DAZN app, they had to sign up for an account at DAZN as well. However, DAZN’s servers couldn’t cope with the volume of Movistar Plus+ subscribers, which meant that they couldn’t issue accounts or activate access to the services paid for.
By the time the problems were solved, Barcelona and Rayo fans had missed half of the first match on the opening weekend of the season, despite paying for a legal subscription. Movistar Plus+ pointed the finger at DAZN, which later admitted to having suffered technical problems.
The pair say that measures have been taken to ensure there are no further problems but, if unreliability was a reason for fans to move away from pirate IPTV services, that might be a tough sell in future. For new Movistar Plus+ pirate converts, missing half the match probably ran counter to what they were promised.
Sadly, the trials and tribulations of financially supporting the beautiful game didn’t stop there.
Italian Football Fans Experience Worse
Just like LaLiga, Italy’s Serie A finds itself in a perpetual war against pirate IPTV services and set-top boxes locally known as ‘pezzotto’. Serie A is also a fan of ISP blocking, which is regularly backed up by stern messages from its CEO that pirates are killing the sport. This weekend, fingers of blame were being pointed in other directions.
Due to ‘technical problems’ suffered by DAZN, Serie A fans couldn’t watch the football matches they’d paid for. Large numbers of subscribers couldn’t log into their accounts and for those that could, being randomly kicked out became a feature of the season’s opening weekend.
With fans on Twitter declaring that Serie A and DAZN are those responsible for “killing football”, swathes of pirates with uninterrupted access to the matches gloated as legitimate buyers fumed in frustration.
When Pirates Receive a Better Product, It’s Already Over
From both PR and anti-piracy perspectives, the weekend was a disaster. Serie A recently relaunched its ‘Piracy Kills Football’ campaign which is being promoted in all football stadiums via graphics and a big screen video spot during the first two rounds in the new season.
If the only aim was to reach the eyes of pirates, the campaign was a complete success because only pirates had continuous access to the matches. If the goal was to encourage behavioral change among pirates, the damage might last for years. But just when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, they did just that.
Here Comes The Government
Six-time Olympic gold medalist and 16-time world champion fencer Valentina Vezzali now spends her time dueling in politics as Italy’s cabinet undersecretary for sports. After seeing the football debacle at the weekend, she’s demanding a meeting between Serie A and the government to find out what went wrong.
Italian telecoms regulator AGCOM, which is also responsible for blocking piracy sites, is also invited. Quite what AGCOM can do isn’t clear but a presentation of how blocked piracy sites can deliver a better quality service than multi-billion euro companies could be a potential PPV event in its own right.
According to a local report, at some point over the weekend DAZN was forced to create a separate link to a low-resolution broadcast. Viewers reportedly abandoned their TVs for smaller devices since the image quality was so poor. Again, highly amusing to pirates;
“Breaking news: #DAZN buys the #pezzotto’s servers to bring their service up to standards. As a gift to all customers, as compensation, also documentaries and hot channels,” one user wrote in response.
When approached for an explanation on the chaos, Serie A said it wouldn’t be commenting. Considering that even the “criminals” behind pirate IPTV services tend to offer explanations to upset customers (while also offering an apparently superior content delivery experience), one has to wonder who is in the wrong business and what it will take to put things right.
In the meantime, DAZN will be broadcasting the rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua in the United States and other markets this coming Saturday. That’s what’s been announced, at least.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.