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U.K.-based digital media outfit Perform has reached a proposed deal to purchase Opta Sports, a London-based sports data provider. Opta Sports works with hundreds of major European sports entities, including the EPL, La Liga and the Dutch Eredivisie, to provide data and analytics both on a consumer-facing basis, and for scouting and player development, and in the U.S. is aligned with MLS. The proposed acquisition is for $61M (all figures U.S.), with a management incentive of up to $10.7M more, and is conditional on a successful fundraising by Perform. The company is planning to raise $183M through a share placement. The deal extends a flurry of activity for Perform, including a recent joint venture with American City Business Journals (parent company of The Daily and SportsBusiness Journal) to create Sporting News Media. The Opta Sports assets in part will be integrated with Goal.com, Perform's global soccer portal. Opta Sports had been seeking a larger, more institutional investor for roughly a year (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Perform joint CEO Oliver Slipper said that the deal "would allow Perform to capitalise on the growing hunger of media groups for sports statistics." He added, "We felt over the past year or two that sports data for the media sector ... is becoming a more and more important part of their content mix." Slipper said that further deals "could follow in Europe and Asia," and added that it "might purchase consumer-facing websites akin to goal.com, which it bought" in '11. Perform said that Opta was "expected to have achieved sales" of $19.1M in the year to June 30 and $2M of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization. Four-fifths of Opta’s sales "come from its media products arm, which supplies data to websites, broadcast feeds and databases" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/3).
The makers of the documentary "Venus and Serena" say the USTA did not file to copyright disputed footage until May of this year, and said in a letter to the judge overseeing the case they planned to seek damages themselves from the USTA. The governing body last month sued filmmakers Maiken Baird and Michelle Major, alleging U.S. Open footage used in the documentary was unauthorized, and asked for an injunction against further showing of the film. In a press announcement disclosing the letter to the judge, a publicist for the filmmakers said Showtime nevertheless has announced airtimes for the film. Showtime is a unit of CBS, which recently lost out on rights to the U.S. Open past '14. The letter contends that the footage, which includes Serena’s notorious arguments with a lineswoman over a foot fault call, was not copyright protected when the film debuted. But a USTA spokesperson in an email wrote, "You are entitled to copyright protection regardless of whether you file or not. ... Filing merely enables you to seek attorneys fees and additional damages." The letter, sent to N.Y. federal judge Edgardo Ramos, said the filmmakers would seek attorneys' fees and other currently unspecified redress (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).
NINE LIVES: ESPN on Tuesday night premiered "Venus Vs.," a documentary about Venus Williams that marked the first installment in the net's "Nine for IX" series marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX. The film received generally possitive reviews on Twitter. USA Today's Dan Wolken wrote, "The Venus thing was good, but I'd really like to see a 30-for-30 on Monica Seles. Can you imagine if that happened in Twitter era?" ESPN's Jemele Hill added, "The fact that screams are tolerated on the court now makes Venus' penalty for her beads dropping more preposterous … I don't need anybody in my mentions holla'ing about 3 sets vs 5 sets and can't tell me the no. 1 ranked men's player w/I Google." ESPN N.Y.'s Jane McManus wrote, "Truth is, they are picking some beautiful images of Venus and Serena for this documentary. That NYT Mag cover was strong. … Petunias, begonias, azaleas, magnolias, tomato plants - I don't care what kind of flora, it's not worth sacrificing equal pay. #VenusVs … I felt like I was at that Wimbledon meeting. Really well done." Columbia Univ. journalism professor Emily Bell added, "Gripped by ESPN program on Venus Williams, equal prize money for women and #Wimbledon."
Yahoo bought startup Bignoggins Productions on Monday "as part of its quest for more bright ideas in mobile applications," according to the AP. Although the Bignoggins deal "didn’t dent Yahoo’s wallet, it represents a coup" for Bignoggins Founder Jerry Shen. He "quit his job as a software engineer shortly after starting Bignoggins in San Jose, Calif., three years ago and proceeded to develop a series of mobile apps for players in fantasy sports leagues." Bignoggins apps such as “Fantasy Monster” and “Draft Monster” were "popular enough to convince fantasy sports players to pay for the service." Shen is "joining Yahoo’s mobile engineering team" at the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif., HQs. He is "the only Bignoggins employee joining Yahoo" (AP, 7/2). TECHCRUNCH.com's Greg Kumparak noted Bignoggins is a "one-man iPhone development shop which had previously built a handful of fairly popular Fantasy Sports mobile apps." Bignoggins until Monday "had at least two apps" for sale, Fantasy Monster ($5) and Draft Monster ($3). Both apps were "built as all-in-one tools, meant to let Fantasy Sports nuts manage their pretend football/baseball/basketball/hockey teams across Yahoo, ESPN, and NFL’s competing services." However, as part of the acquisition, all of Bignoggins’ apps were "immediately pulled from both the App Store and Google Play." Shen said that the tech he has "built so far will soon be baked into Yahoo’s official Fantasy Products" (TECHCRUNCH.com, 7/1).
In Syracuse, Jeremy Ryan cited a U.S. District Court document which indicated that former Syracuse assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine has "dropped his $11 million libel lawsuit against ESPN." Fine's attorneys filed a motion "asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed." A similar libel suit "brought against ESPN by Fine’s wife Laurie is still pending" (CNYCENTRAL.com, 7/2). Also in Syracuse, Nate Mink in a front-page piece reports Fine a week ago "asked a judge to combine his lawsuit with wife Laurie's," but the case was "dropped before the judge made a ruling." ESPN said that Fine "voluntarily dropping the lawsuit is not the result of a settlement" (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 7/3).
BLOG BROUHAHA: In Orlando, Paul Tenorio reported ESPN has "shut down its Big East blog, and thus its home for any American Athletic Conference coverage." The blog's "death comes despite the fact that ESPN and the American have signed a media deal." The decision to "kill the blog has thus ignited a furor in some circles of American Athletic fandom." Fans have "taken to an #OccupyStanford movement -- readers with interests in the American teams are on ESPN's Stanford football blog commenting and discussing the decision to shut down the American Athletic blog" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/2).