MEDIA

Why Spanish basketball fans are up in arms about World Cup coverage

Mediaset, which owns the rights to the tournament, is only showing 15 of the 60 group games

Spain’s Pau Gasol (l) and Felipe Reyes in action against Egypt on Sunday.
Spain’s Pau Gasol (l) and Felipe Reyes in action against Egypt on Sunday.Jorge Guerrero / AFP

Spanish television coverage of the Basketball World Cup, which is now underway in Spain, has unleashed a wave of criticism from fans and players.

Mediaset, the TV network that bought the Spanish broadcast rights to the tournament (and also owns the rights to Eurobasket 2015), is only showing 15 of the 60 matches taking place in the group stage. According to industry sources, the company had been expecting another operator to buy the pay TV rights, thus making the entire championship available. That was how this summer’s soccer World Cup in Brazil was broadcast, with Mediaset sharing the coverage with GolTV. But despite the fact that no other station has picked up the rights, the network has failed to change its schedule.

To see the other 45 group matches, fans need to head to the FIBA International Basketball Federation website, where for €7 they can watch all of the games live online. That said, on Monday Mediaset did announce that FIBA had given it the rights to show six further group games online through its own internet platform, Mitele.es. The first of these was Monday afternoon’s match between Iran and Serbia.

Seriously, the World Cup has started and they’re not showing any matches on TV?” Spain basketball player Ricky Rubio

It is not normal in Spain for a free-to-air network to show a major tournament in its entirety on its own – La Sexta shared the last basketball world championship with Marca TV – but Mediaset does have six channels available to it, two of which, Cuatro and Energy, are broadcasting the basketball. The schedules on the network’s other channels remain unchanged. What’s more, some of the matches that are being shown, such as those involving the United States, are not being broadcast live, but in recorded form after their completion.

Alarm bells first started ringing when fans learned that Mediaset was not planning to broadcast Spain’s final group game live because it clashed with a Spanish national soccer side friendly due to be shown by the company’s Telecinco channel on September 4. Following complaints, Mediaset decided to back down and will now screen both matches live.

But the real deluge of criticism arrived over the weekend once the World Cup was underway, and fans found themselves unable to see any of the first day’s action until Spain’s match at 10pm that night. Among those to join in the criticism were several members of the Spanish national side. “Seriously, the World Cup has started and they’re not showing any match on TV? Wow, what a bummer for basketball fans,” tweeted Ricky Rubio.

Pau Gasol also added his voice to the outcry on Twitter: “It’s a shame that you can’t see all the matches of a World Cup that we are organizing at home live,” he wrote in a message, which was retweeted over 26,000 times.

Spain’s debut match against Iran on Saturday night attracted an average audience of 1,578,000 viewers (12.8 percent share), making Cuatro the leader in that time slot. On Sunday 1,741,000 tuned in to see the national team’s second match (a 11.1 percent share) on a night led by La 1 with 2,576,000 viewers (16.5 percent).

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