Play Global, Act Local
With £2.2bn generated by overseas TV rights, the English Premier League (EPL) is a clear international success. However, EPL clubs still need to implement relevant localisation strategies, in order to reach a wider audience and maximise the corresponding economic benefits.
A 55% Growth
During the current 3-year cycle (2013-16), EPL clubs will earn a total of £2.2bn (+55% vs. 2010-13) from overseas TV rights. This sum is equally distributed among the 20 football clubs (FCs). In other words, each club receives about £37m per season, which represents from around 10% of the annual turnover for the richest (Man Utd, £363m in 2012-13), up to 56% for the less privileged (Stoke and Swansea, £67m), not to mention related merchandising and sponsorship opportunities.
Considered as a killer content by pay-TV operators, the EPL is a key driver of potential subscriptions, and has profited from the maturation of various markets across the globe, especially in Asia (+77% vs. 2010-13).
Top 6 TV Deals
6 TV deals were valued over £150m (in brackets, the major language(s) for each territory / region) in territories / regions where at least one common language is used to broadcast matches for the main territory:
1. Thailand (inc. Laos and Cambodia): £205m (Thai)
2. MENA (Middle East & North Africa): £205m (Arabic)
3. Singapore: £190m (English and Chinese)
4. USA: £165m (English and Spanish)
5. Nordic region combined (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden): £158m (various local languages, but broadcasting usually in English)
6. France: £158m (French)
Localisation Strategies Lagging Behind
First of all, there is a massive digital divide within the EPL, reflecting an increasing polarization between the Big 5 clubs and the rest of the league, as shown by the number of languages offered by each official website:
1. Man City (13 languages): English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, Cantonese, Bahasa Malaysia and Portuguese.
2. Man Utd (7): English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, French and Arabic.
3. Chelsea (7): English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian and Russian.
4. Arsenal (4): English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and a fifth version dedicated to the USA.
5. Liverpool (3): English, Thai and Indonesian.
6. Aston Villa, Everton and Sunderland (2): respectively English and Chinese, English and Thai, English and Korean.
7. 12 other clubs (1): English.
Besides, apart from the two clubs from Manchester, which both offer a diverse range of languages, Chelsea with Russian (not necessarily a strategic decision, but probably mostly related to the owner’s nationality, Roman Abramovich), or Arsenal with a localised US version, the websites of the entire league are 100% focused on Asian languages.
Liverpool is the only club which recently announced the development of a clear localisation strategy, with the “global LFC” initiative. According to Ian Ayre, managing director, the club will deliver tailored content in local languages through dedicated websites (Indonesian and Thai versions available respectively since May and June 2013) and several official social media accounts, including 12 international Twitter profiles, all of which easily accessible from the LFC website.
Entire Markets Neglected
Even though Asia is the most contributing continent / region with 42% (£941m) of the total TV rights, major non-Asian markets and languages are neglected, including Arabic (MENA is still a strong contributor, despite a 9% decrease vs. 2010-13), French and Spanish (especially related to the growing Hispanic population in the USA). Furthermore, additional Asian languages were not prioritised, despite their importance in terms of TV rights, such as Cantonese (Hong-Kong, 7th TV deal with £128m), or Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysia, also £128m).
The case of Hindi (India and West Asia, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, 9th with £93m) is worth noticing. Of course, English is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication in India. Nevertheless, Hindi is the most widely spoken language and primary tongue of 41% of the Indian population. Consequently, Indian rights holders have recently been offering commentary in Hindi, in order to widen the viewer demographic. But so far, there is no trace of a single website in Hindi among the 20 EPL clubs.
Chinese (China, £32m), Korean (South Korea, £26m) and Japanese (Japan, £24m) were prioritised to the detriment of other languages, either considering the huge growth potential of China, or established economies with mature football markets in South Korea and Japan.
However, EPL clubs should not limit the localisation of their websites to these languages, in order to reap the entire benefits of the international success of the league, fully embrace their strong status as global brands for the most popular FCs, and seize the numerous opportunities the world has to offer.
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