by Brandi Ortega
Integrated Sports has announced it will air all four U.S. Women’s National Team matches at the upcoming Algarve Cup in Portugal. All major cable and satellite providers will air the matches live for a suggested retail price of $14.95 per match.
Eurosport announced it had obtained the exclusive rights to air the Algarve Cup matches in Europe, but legal access to Eurosport channels is not available in the U.S. Previously, Al Bann Media held the exclusive rights to air the USWNT’s games in the U.S. Investors backed out and Al Bann decided not go through with its production and broadcast.
I spoke to Doug Jacobs, founder of Integrated Sports Media, about pricing pay-per-view games, his company’s future plans for airing women’s soccer and the production behind the matches. Integrated Sports Media was founded in 2005 and in addition to distributing matches for Real Madrid and Mexico’s Club América, has distributed matches for the national teams of Argentina, Ecuador and the U.S. This is the first time the company will distribute a match for the USWNT so I asked Jacobs what sparked his interest in the women’s side.
“I’ve been in pay-per-view distribution a long time. Primarily in international sports, primarily in boxing, mixed-martial arts, and soccer going back to the Confederations Cup in 1999. I’m well aware of the soccer market in the US and obviously aware of the hardcore fans that would have interest in this. So I saw an opportunity and approached the Portuguese Federation. The deal made business sense and I believed there would be an audience for this.”
“We’re trying to keep it reasonably priced at $14.95 per match,” Jacobs said. “There is a cost of doing this; I wish it could be lower or free. To get it on TV here, that’s the only way we could do it.”
Speaking of cost, I asked Jacobs about pricing and what goes into setting pay-per-view prices. The providers have it down to a science, Jacobs said.
“In general, there isn’t a lot of … if you see big boxing fight, a [Floyd] Mayweather fight, or a big UFC event, they’ll charge, say $55 dollars for it. They figure this out. There’s somewhat of a science to it,” he said. “They realize that, first of all, people that are going to buy a Floyd Mayweather fight generally aren’t watching alone. Maybe there are two, three, four different people watching it – people are splitting up the cost of it. And, two, they realize that if they charge $25 dollars for the fight, they’re not going to do a huge amount of more buys to make up the difference.”
“If a fight is going to do a million buys at $55, it’s not going to do two-and-a-half million at $25, which would give them more revenue, you know what I mean – kind of, the math to it?”
Factors such as scheduling and time zone differences for U.S. audiences went into settling on a price. But even then, Jacobs admits there is a lot of guesswork involved.
“In this case, I figured it was – the times aren’t great for the matches, obviously, kind of early morning weekday. There’s not necessarily a history of women’s soccer on pay-per-view so I didn’t want to do too high of a price for people who are borderline to buy it.”
“Again, it’s guesstimate here. But to a certain degree of the kind of minimum that we at least need to make the Portuguese Federation happy as well.”
The USWNT’s matches will air during less than ideal times for some but Jacobs expects providers to offer replays at different times. Plus, if those who miss the matches live can stay away from score spoilers, there’s always DVRs.
“I mean, there will be – I don’t have an exact replay schedule yet or anything like that from the pay-per-view providers, but there should be some replays as well. In today’s world, most people have DVRs so they can certainly tape it live and watch it later.”
It is important to note the Integrated Sports is not handling the production of the telecasts but Jacobs is confident that viewers will receive a high-quality telecast.
“The production is being done by a company hired by the Portuguese Federation,” Jacobs said. “I have the utmost confidence they know how to produce soccer. They [the matches] will be available in HD. There probably won’t really be much of a pre-game […] They’ll have time to get line-ups and so forth in there. I’m not sure exactly what we’ll have at halftime. We may not have much more than some replays, and things like that.”
“It’s an international feed going to multiple broadcasters,” he continued. “For example, Eurosport is televising in Europe […] It’ll be broadcast from a neutral perspective. No different if you’re watching Fox and they’re showing the EPL and they’re bringing over, in essence, the international broadcast produced by, say, TWI, on behalf of the Premiere League and the commentator is calling it neutral onsite. So that’s what it’ll be. At this moment, I don’t know who they’re hiring.”
Jacobs is taking a wait-and-see approach to distributing future women’s soccer games via pay-per-view. He’ll take a look at the results from the Algarve Cup and future demand from viewers into consideration.
“There’s a big difference, even on the men’s side, between a friendly and a meaningful game, a World Cup qualifier and so forth. So in this case, the Algarve Cup, although it’s not a World Cup qualifier or the Olympics, which are the two biggest tournaments in women’s soccer, it’s still meaningful. Obviously, they [the USWNT] have a new coach, and it’s the only real tournament for them this year so it’s got meaning. I may be wrong, you know, and we’ll see how the results are but I think if there was a US women’s friendly against, say, Germany over in Germany that for whatever reason wasn’t being picked up by ESPN or Fox, maybe we’d look at it. I’m not sure it would have the same interest.”
Jacobs expects to offer the games online as well for the same prices though plans are still being finalized. Viewers can look for the game listings in a week or two, depending on each provider.
“I anticipate having some type of online pay-per-view element as well that hasn’t been finalized yet. So it will be available on computers; it will be the same price.”