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Premiership rugby "will be broadcast on BT Vision from next season" on after the telecom giant paid £152M ($245M) for a four-year contract to snatch the rights away from Sky Sports, according to Josh Burrows of the LONDON TIMES. BT, which is buying more sports content to bolster its proposition, said that "it would show up to 69 Aviva Premiership rugby matches and the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Sevens from next season." It will also "show matches played by Aviva Premiership clubs in European competitions" for three years from '14-15 (LONDON TIMES, 9/12). Also in London, Katherine Rushton reported analysts said that Premiership Rugby "had taken a gamble by handing the games to a relatively unknown broadcaster," which operates the BT Vision TV platform but has yet to launch a dedicated sports channel. However, they added that the size of BT’s investment "signaled its determination to make a success of its television service." A source said, "You’re either in premium sport or you’re not. You have got to have a compelling all-round offer, and they have made a pretty bold shift. They are not mopping up motor Raleigh or sheep herding. They are going after serious stuff, and this will hurt BSkyB" (TELEGRAPH, 9/12). The London GURADIAN's Paul Rees wrote that English clubs, along with their leading French counterparts, gave notice this year that they "would withdraw from the Heineken Cup when the current deal expires at the end of next season." They want the way the European competitions are run to be "altered radically" (GUARDIAN, 9/12).
SHARING THE WEALTH: The FINANCIAL TIMES' Daniel Thomas wrote that BT "will offer rivals such as Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky the chance to show the games on a wholesale basis. BT Vision CEO Marc Watson said: “We will be bringing all of the action together in one place and will look to distribute it on a variety of platforms." The company is looking for a production company to help develop its sports channel (FINANCIAL TIMES, 9/12). In N.Y., Lilly Vitorovich wrote on the Wall Street Journal's Tech Europe blog a BT spokesperson said that BT Vision plans to launch a sports channel next summer to showcase its newly bought football and rugby matches, and is "keeping an open mind" on other sporting rights as they come up. Investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein Analyst Robin Bienenstock said, "BT appears to be ramping up, not down, its competitive stance towards BSkyB" (WSJ.com, 9/12).
HOLDING THE CONTINENT: Sky Sports has agreed to a new four-year deal with the ERC for exclusive live coverage of European Rugby competitions. The new deal for the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup continues a series of major rights renewals for Sky Sports over the last 18 months. The extended contract starts in the fall of '14, after the current deal, and will extend the long-standing relationship with the ERC to the end of the '17-18 season, a 15th year. Under the new ERC deal Sky Sports will continue to hold exclusive live right to:
- THE HEINEKEN CUP: Exclusive live matches from each of the first four rounds, plus all knockout stages and finals for a further four seasons, across the U.K. and Ireland.
- AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP: Exclusive live coverage of matches in the opening rounds, knockout stages, both semifinals and the final across the U.K. and Ireland (Sky Sports).
But in London, John Westerby reported the new contract sent European rugby into "a state of chaos" and left the future of the Heineken "in serious doubt." ERC, the organizer of the Heineken Cup, accused Premiership clubs "of breaching International Rugby Board regulations by negotiating television rights unilaterally." ERC insists it has the sole authority to negotiate for the televising of European matches. Shortly after the new Premiership deal was announced, ERC said it had agreed a new four-year deal with Sky Sports to screen Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup matches exclusively. That, clearly, would be impossible if English clubs have their own arrangement with a rival broadcaster (LONDON TIMES, 9/12).
BBC sports presenter Jake Humphrey "is in talks to become the host of BT Vision's live Premier League match coverage" when it starts next season, according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. BT is looking for "a big-name anchor" to head up its football coverage. Humphrey is best known for his F1 work on the BBC and "has been negotiating with the corporation over his contract for exclusive work." His contract expires at the end of the year, and it is known "the 33-year-old, who changed his representative agents this year, wants to work on other sports and earn a lot more money." He earns £250,000 ($402,550), far less than BBC colleague Gary Lineker's £2M ($3.2M). Humphrey was also frustrated by his low profile at the Euro 2012, and being the lead presenter for the 38 games on BT Vision "would give Humphrey the football prominence he wants" (DAILY MAIL, 9/12).
Bandsports, from the group Bandeirantes de Comunicação, has acquired the exclusive rights to the French Open in Brazil from '13-17. The deal allows Bandsports to broadcast matches across all its media platforms. Bandsports Production and Operation Dir Evandro Figueira said that the agreement with the French Tennis Federation (FFT) allows Bandsports to "simultaneously broadcast different live matches across the different media platforms." The next French Open will take place from May 26 to June 9, and Bandsports will broadcast live at least 30 matches (Bandsports).
MCS TV Group announced a four-year deal with sports media groups IEC in Sports and Perform to exclusively broadcast more than 400 Women’s Tennis Association matches per year across their network of channels. The agreement covers all platforms and starts at the Brisbane Int'l on Jan. 2. It will include access to 22 WTA Premier tournaments every year, concluding with the season finale TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul. MCS TV Group’s channels include Ma Chaine Sport, MCS Extrême, MCS Bien-être and MCS Int'l and are distributed across Numéricable, Canalsat and ADSL, reaching more than 14 million viewers in multiple territories including France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Israel, Portugal and selected territories in sub-Saharan Africa. Perform and IEC in Sports, who partnered to acquire and market the WTA’s premier events in December, plan to double the number of current live matches produced, by increasing both the number of courts and days covered. In addition, Perform will provide extensive coverage of the WTA on all its digital platforms (WTA).
More than 11 million people "watched ARD's broadcast of the World Cup qualifying match between Germany and Austria," according to Sidney Schering of QUOTENMETER.de. A total of 11.67 million viewers or a "tremendous" 38.1% share witnessed Germany's 2-1 victory. In the marketing relevant target age group 14-49, ARD "obtained a market share" of 33.4% with 4.13 million viewers (QUOTENMETER.de, 9/12).
SPAIN: Telecinco's broadcast of Spain's 1-0 victory over Georgia in World Cup qualifying was watched by an average of 4.5 million people and a 39.2% share. The "golden minute" occurred at 9:22 local time when 7 million people were tuned in and a 46.6% share (EUROPA PRESS, 9/12).
FRANCE: TF1's broadcast of France's 3-1 win over Belarus in World Cup qualifying had an average audience of 6.8 million people and a share of 28.6% (20MINUTES.fr, 9/12).
UEFA revealed the award of the '12-15 UEFA Europa League media rights in Hungary to Story 4 and DIGI Sport. Sanoma Digital Media has been awarded the right to have first pick of which game to broadcast live each matchweek, to be transmitted on its main channel Story 4. Coverage of the live fixture will be followed by a highlights program. Pay-TV operator DIGI Sport has been granted the rights to the remaining live games, with the final being awarded on a co-exclusive basis. Each matchnight, DIGI Sport Hungary and DIGI Sport Plus Hungary will transmit one live match as well as a highlights show. UEFA also announced the award of certain media rights for the '12-15 UEFA Europa League in Romania to ProTV. As part of the deal, Sport.ro will broadcast each matchweek one live game and a highlights program. Matches featuring local participation will be shown on ProTV and will be followed by a wrap-up of the matchweek action. The above rights have been awarded to Pro TV on a co-exclusive basis with pay-TV operators RCS RDS (DIGI Sport) and RomTelecom (Dolce Sport) (UEFA).
MP & Silva, a leading int'l media rights agency, has extended its partnership with Major League Soccer until '14. The deal includes the exclusive rights distribution outside North America to all MLS games, tournaments and events, including MLS regular season, MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup. MP & Silva continues to support MLS’ increase in global popularity. The '11 MLS season reached 118 million homes in a total of 112 countries (MP & Silva). ... BT saw a "record level of traffic" on its retail broadband network during London 2012. Bandwidth consumption "reached an all-time high on July 29, coinciding with Team GB's first Medal win." According to BT, this is the date that the U.K. "woke up to the Games online". During the Paralympics, the highest volume of traffic was reached on Sept. 2 (CABLE.co.uk, 9/12). ... Video search engine blinkx "has entered into a partnership with television sports video group SNTV." The agreement "will give blinkx users more premium sports content." SNTV covers a variety of major sports events worldwide, from the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup to the novel and niche competitions like wife-carrying and snail racing (SHARECAST.com, 9/12).
CRICKET COVERAGE: ESPN3 will present exclusive live coverage of the World Twenty20 Championship in the U.S., making it available to 73 million households nationwide at no additional cost to fans. In addition to delivering all the action on the pitch live from Sri Lanka, ESPNcricinfo will provide extensive coverage throughout the event from a team of seasoned experts and analysts globally and across platforms. ESPN3 will carry complete coverage of the World Twenty20 Championship in the U.S. exclusively live from Sri Lanka. The multi-screen sports network will feature every match of the tournament, as well as the warm-up match between India vs. Pakistan on Sept.17 (ESPN). ... Nimbus, one of India's leading TV marketing companies, "has been approached by the Pakistan Cricket Board." PCB source Harish Thawani said that "the Nimbus CEO met the PCB officials recently" in Lahore. Thawani said, "Obviously the discussions were relating to the broadcasting rights" (PAKISTAN TODAY, 9/12). ... The ICC launched the official event website for the ICC World Twenty20 2012, which will be staged in Sri Lanka between Sept. 18 and Oct. 7. The site will include tournament information, video match highlights and exclusive behind the scenes interviews with all of the teams and leading players. The site is accessible at www.icc-cricket.com (ICC).