Man United expects FIFA to cash in from streaming platforms

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By Associated Press

Manchester United expects FIFA’s $12 billion Club World Cup plans to spur competition between streaming platforms and produce a broadcasting windfall.

FIFA is looking to transform its low-key annual seven-team competition into a quadrennial event featuring 24 clubs that could challenge the status of the Champions League in Europe.

President Gianni Infantino has told football executives he has a global consortium of investors willing to underwrite a combined $25 billion in revenue for both the revamped Club World Cup and a new Nations League for countries to contest every two years.

While the traditional World Cup, played every four years, is typically aired by major national broadcasters, revenue for the new competition formats could be delivered by the increasingly-influential over-the-top platforms, including Amazon and Netflix.

“It supports the view that OTT platforms will be the future of content consumption,” Man United vice chairman Ed Woodward said Thursday, reflecting on recent talks with FIFA officials about Club World Cup plans.

“Live compelling content will be a key battleground that influences which (platforms) are successful, and for whichever way the rapidly evolving media landscape unfolds, content generators are uniquely placed to be the beneficiaries. As such we believe live sports content will become increasingly more valuable in the future.”

FIFA is forecasting $3 billion in revenue for each Club World Cup in a 12-year cycle, with about $2 billion shared among the 24 teams.

Three-time European champion United will hope to contest the first edition if FIFA overcomes resistance from European governing body UEFA to play the new-look tournament in 2021.

It would be played in June or July every four years and include 12 European teams, including the Champions League finalists and Europa League winners from the previous four seasons.

If a club qualified on merit multiple times, entries would then be allocated according to a UEFA ranking system, typically led by storied and successful clubs.

One of Infantino’s top FIFA aides, deputy secretary general Zvonimir Boban, backed away from reports that clubs could be invited to compete if they had won multiple European titles.

“It’s just speculation,” Boban said Wednesday. “It has to be (qualification) on merit.”

Man United is less reliant than most clubs on securing a new source of income given its existing financial strength, which was demonstrated in two announcements on Thursday.

The 20-time English champions expect to generate between 575 million pounds ($777 million) and 585 million pounds ($791 million) in this financial year, according to the club’s latest financial update.

The Premier League has also disclosed United earned the most in broadcast revenue and prize money in the season that ended on Sunday, despite finishing second behind Manchester City.

United picked up 149.8 million pounds, compared to City’s 149.4 million pounds, because more of its games were broadcast live on British television.

The league’s commercial and international broadcast revenue is split equally, giving each of the 20 clubs 40.8 million pounds.

Half of the domestic TV revenue is split equally between the 20 clubs, amounting to 34.8 million pounds each. Another quarter is distributed depending on a team’s finishing place and the remaining quarter based on the domestic TV appearances.