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Volume 10 No. 24


Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. "tightened its grip on Sky Deutschland on Monday, saying it would raise its stake in the German pay-TV company to 54.5 percent from just under half in a capital increase," according to Steitz & ten Wolde of REUTERS. The move comes as media conglomerate News Corp. "separates its publishing and entertainment assets into two publicly traded companies following shareholder pressure to sell its troubled newspaper business and put a greater focus on the faster-growing TV companies." It also follows an attempt in '10 by News Corp. "to snap up the 61 percent of Britain's BSkyB that it did not already own." That deal "was eventually scuppered by a phone hacking scandal at one of Murdoch's tabloid newspapers." News Corp. "is hoping Sky Deutschland will turn out like BSkyB," which has amassed more than 10 million customers and grown adept at selling increasing numbers of services to them. News Corp. so far has invested about €1B ($1.34B) in the business (REUTERS, 1/14).

RAISING THE STAKES: In London, Gerrit Wiesmann reported Sky Deutschland said that News Corp. would give it €347.4M ($464.4M) "in return for new Sky Deutschland shares," raising its stake to 54.5%, from 49.9% five years after the U.S. group "first took a stake in the long-struggling venture." The move "was part of a financing package" totaling less than €1B, which Sky Deutschland CEO Brian Sullivan said that "the company would use to invest in programming, technology and customer service in order to lure more customers." Sullivan said that subscriptions rose 12% to 3.36 million last year. News Corp. COO Chase Carey said he still saw "significant market opportunities" for Sky Deutschland (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/14). Also in London, Georg Szalai reported "Sky Deutschland will sell 77.9 million new shares to a News Corp. unit," raising about $465M in new equity. Also, Sky Deutschland will refinance $400M in bank credit facilities guaranteed by News Corp. In addition, News Corp. will cover Bundesliga football league rights that Sky Deutschland has secured through the '16-17 season (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 1/13).

BT revealed "the latest part of its plan to become a major British sports broadcaster by signing a deal" with the WTA to show as much as 800 hours per year of live tennis, according to the London INDEPENDENT. The telecom company "will hope to cash in on the upturn in British women’s tennis by showing live matches from 21 WTA tournaments across the globe." The BT Sport deal is for four years and includes the five elite WTA tournaments -- Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing and Istanbul. During the '13 season, the rights "will be held jointly with previous holder Eurosport," but from '14 "will be exclusively owned by BT Sport." BT "will launch two channels in July and is building its sports profile." BT Sports Head Simon Green said: "We are focusing on several more women’s sports, and we hope to be able to announce more rights soon" (INDEPENDENT, 1/11).

Channel 7's "free-to-air coverage of racing in Sydney and Melbourne starts in less than a month, taking over from Channel 9 as part of a new five-year deal to give the sport greater exposure," according to Brent Zerafa of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. A total of 27 meetings -- 18 in Sydney -- "will be broadcast across the main channel and digital platform 7Two, with the Expressway Stakes meeting at Warwick Farm" on Feb. 9 the first to air. Channel 7's "commitment to racing comprises two seasons, with the first running every weekend until the end of the BMW Sydney Autumn Carnival on April 27."  The second season begins on Aug. 31 and finishes with the Sandown Classic meeting on Nov. 16 (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 1/15). In Sydney, Chris Roots reported TVN "will start with a clean financial sheet for the racing network's second coming" after discharging more than A$27M ($28.5M) in debt as part of the deal to become aggregated TV rights owner for Victoria and New South Wales racing. TVN "made the first major announcement as the aggregator of racing," signing a partnership with Channel 7 for the free-to-air digital coverage of carnival meetings (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 1/15).

German public broadcaster ARD "has posted less income from commercial sales for its Bundesliga-Spotschau format in the first half of the '12-13 season than in the previous year," according to Alexander Krei of DWDL. However, ARD "seems optimistic that this will change." ARD Sport Marketing Head Michael Lina said, "The number of bookings is already higher than in January of the previous year -- by about 20%." Similarly positive is the outlook for pay-TV channel Sky, which "has already sold 85% of its commercial slots with a couple of days reaming until the start of the second half of the Bundesliga season."  In addition, sports channel Sport1's Bundesliga programs are "more sought-after than ever before." A possible reason could be the switch of the UEFA Champions League from private channel Sat.1 to public broadcaster ZDF. Many advertisers switch to Bundesliga programs because they are not allowed to advertise during the ZDF's Champions League broadcasts (DWDL, 1/14).

ALL IN ON THE AMERICAS: DWDL's Krei also reported German pay-TV channel sportdigital "has acquired the rights to the final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil." In addition, sportdigital "has extended its deal with the South American Copa Libertadores for another two seasons and acquired the rights for the Brazilian Cup competition (Copa do Brasil) for '13 and '14" (DWDL, 1/14).

Sports broadcaster ESPN "could pull out of their deal to show Scottish football at the end of this season," according to Will Cooper of the SCOTSMAN. The sports network has a clause in its contract that allows it to "cancel the current deal, signed last summer," with the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League. Viewing figures for the SPL "have dipped this season, in part due to the loss of Rangers from the top flight, and the prospect of another tumultuous off-season with league realignment in the offing could prove a turn off" for TV networks (SCOTSMAN, 1/11). In Glasgow, Gregor Kyle wrote ESPN "has no intention of walking away from Scottish football -- despite stories to the contrary appearing in two national newspapers." The claims "have now been completely rubbished by an ESPN insider." The American broadcaster was, in keeping with standard practice, "unwilling to officially comment," but an insider said: "Yes, there is a release clause, which is the standard practise for all broadcasting contracts. But we have no intention of invoking it" (DAILY RECORD, 1/11).

The Int'l Association of Athletics Federations has agreed to a broadcasting deal in Germany for the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia. The agreement was concluded between Sport A, the sports buying rights agency of German public service broadcasters ARD and ZDF, and IEC in Sports, the IAAF’s exclusive media agency for European and African rights for the IAAF World Athletics Series of which the biennial IAAF World Championships are its jewel. Under the terms ARD and ZDF will televise the nine-day event, which will take place from Aug. 10-18, guaranteeing to transmit live coverage from all evening sessions (IAAF).

German public broadcaster ZDF "has obtained respectable ratings" with its broadcast of Germany's second group game of the 2013 Int'l Handball Federation World Championship, according to Alexander Krei of DWDL. A total of 4.09 million viewers tuned in on Sunday afternoon to watch Germany's 25-23 loss by the hands of Tunisia. The number equaled a 16.3% market share. In the target demographic 14-49, the game, which started at 5:21pm local time, obtained a 12.8% share. Ahead of the handball game, the country's second public broadcaster ARD "received even higher ratings with its biathlon coverage." The women's mass start race from Ruhpolding, Germany, which started at 1pm, attracted an average of 4.77 million viewers. The number translated into a market share of 28.4%. The men's mass start race, which followed the women's race, was watched by 5.21 million viewers.

FOOTBALL RATINGS: DWDL's Krei also reported German sports channel Sport1 "received good ratings for its football broadcasts" on Sunday. The broadcast of the Wintercup indoor tournament from Dusseldorf, Germany, which was won by Borussia Dortmund attracted 400,000 viewers. The number equaled a market share of 2%. In the target demographic, the tournament obtained a 2.2% share. Following the tournament, Sport1 aired the test match between Bayern Munich and SpVgg Unterhaching. The game attracted 610,000 viewers and received a 2% market share (DWDL, 1/14).

QUOTEN METER's Manuel Weis reported "Eurosport's ratings for the first night of the Australian Open leave room for improvement." Eurosport attracted an average of 30,000 from 1-3pm German time. As usual during tennis tournaments "the interest of viewers in the first round is very limited, meaning the numbers will almost certainly increase in the next couple days." The first Australian Open night received a market share of 0.6% (QUOTEN METER, 1/14).