TFF plays Russian roulette with SuperLig TV rights as Digiturk questions their value

March 2 – The Turkish Football Federation are playing the ultimate game of brinkmanship over their domestic rights deal that could conceivably plummet from a high of $500 million from the last rights cycle, to just $100 million for the next.

The tortuous rights tender conducted by the TFF for the SuperLig has generated a top bid of $150 million, made by current incumbent beIN/Digiturk.

TFF has issued an ultimatum to Digiturk to agree the deal by March 7 or face losing the rights to the second highest bidder, Saran, which has put up $100 million.

Digiturk were the highest bidder for all nine packages on offer. The TFF in the final offer has removed two of those packages – the everything-you-can-eat package of all the games, and the high value ‘big match’ package.

What Digiturk do have an option is everything else, estimated at about 200 of the 380 games per season. But there appears to be no guarantee of a significant number of games involving Turkey’s biggest clubs – including Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Trabsponsor – in those packages.

Instead the TFF has told Digiturk that it can retender for the ‘big club’ package only once it has committed to all the other packages.

For Digiturk the question is whether the rights are of any real value to them without the big clubs, whether they should just walk away, and – in a market of little trust between the buyer and seller – whether if they returned to tender for the outstanding packages it would be done as part of a fair and transparent process.

For the TFF, whose SuperLig clubs have combined debt of $750 million, the danger is that they are facing a life without a mainstream channel showing their matches (which comes with all the knock-on issues for commercial sponsors), and a $400 million shortfall from the previous deal.

The TFF broadcast negotiations have taken on the appearance of an accident looking for somewhere to happen. Where the TFF may have overplayed their hand is that they are convinced that Digiturk needs their rights. The reality for Digiturk is that the broadcast business is more general entertainment and movies based with a large internet component. Domestic football rights are nice to have but not having them is unlikely to dent the business.

The relationship between beIN/Digiturk and the TFF has deteriorated over the past couple of years as the TFF has done little to protect their rights holder against piracy or the abuse of Fenerbahce and its fans who blame the broadcaster for influencing decisions against the club.

Digiturk are now deciding whether enough is enough. One thing is sure, whatever they decide it won’t be enough for Turkey’s clubs.

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