Sky Sports will offer access to its sports channels on a pay-as-you-go basis for the first time in "a bold departure for the satellite broadcaster," according to Chris Johnston of the LONDON TIMES. Viewers will be "able to buy access to all six Sky Sports channels for a 24-hour period" for £9.99 ($15.84) through its NOW TV online service. The move comes "even as Sky continues to make more money out of existing customers," with its average spend rising £24 ($38) to £568 ($900) a year. Revenues rose 5% to £3.5B ($5.6B) in the six months up to Dec. 31, aided by a price hike of £1 ($1.60) for Sky Sports and £1.50 ($2.38) for the entertainment package. Retail subscription revenue rose 5% to £2.9B ($4.6B), which "offset a fall from pubs and clubs" (LONDON TIMES, 1/31).
À LA CARTE: In London, Mark Sweney reported the new sports offering "will launch in the spring and aims to attract fans looking to watch a one-off event," such as an F1 grand prix, England cricket match or the Masters golf tournament. Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch said the new service will not destroy Sky's solid "gold" revenue stream of monthly subscribers. Darroch said, "It will complement [subscription packages] well, ... to extend Sky Movies, Sky Sports and later entertainment channels to an entirely new set of customers" (GUARDIAN, 1/31).
WIDESPREAD APPEAL: In N.Y., Lilly Vitorovich wrote on the WALL STREET JOURNAL's The Source blog the 24-hour pass to the sports channels "could be an attractive offer to customers who aren’t die-hard sports fans but who enjoy the high-profile events." Marketing firm Numis analyst Paul Richards said, "If you look at the Super Sunday for example where you sometimes have a 1:30(pm) kickoff and 4(pm) kickoff, then you get two potentially very good football games at £9.99. That strikes me as a very astutely judged price point" (WSJ, 1/31).
The Premier League has announced pay-TV broadcaster Canal+ has been awarded exclusive audio-visual broadcast rights for all 380 Premier League matches a season for seasons '13-14 through '15-16 in France. EPL CEO Richard Scudamore said, "They are a long-term partner of the Premier League and have a track record of delivering fantastic coverage of the competition." Canal+ Group Dir General Rodolphe Belmer added, "We are extremely proud and satisfied, in a very competitive environment, to have renewed our long-term partnership with the Premier League. It is the world's most admired football competition and much appreciated by our subscribers" (EPL). L'EQUIPE's Etienne Moatti noted Canal+ beat out rival beIN Sport, "which wanted to acquire the prestigious contract." However, Canal+ "had to significantly increase the sum it currently pays," which was €24M ($32.6M) a season (L'EQUIPE, 1/31).
BT Sport "has signed up Clare Balding to present a weekly show that will focus on major sports issues and aim to give women's sport a share of the spotlight," according to Mike Dawes of the London DAILY MAIL. Balding, highly praised for her coverage of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, "will present and co-produce the show." Balding, who will continue to present racing for Channel 4 and work for the BBC, said: "I'm enthused by BT's vision for sports coverage in the future and particularly their support of women's sport, an issue about which I feel very strongly" (DAILY MAIL, 1/31). In London, Mark Sweney reported Balding "will interview major sporting names and discuss the issues of the week." A key part of the show "will be to look at women's sport." BT Sport Head Simon Green said: "We wanted to give Clare an opportunity to anchor her own weekly show, which we see as a flagship program for BT Sport. She excels at presenting a variety of different sports and she showed last summer what an accomplished live performer she is." Balding "will join former BBC colleague Jake Humphrey, who has been signed to front coverage of the 38 Premier League games a season BT paid £738M to secure last year" (GUARDIAN, 1/31).
Electronic Arts, reporting earnings for its fiscal Q3 late Wednesday, said it has sold more than 12 million units of "FIFA 13," representing a 23% increase compared to last year's sales pace. EA also said it generated more than $100M in digital net revenue from "FIFA 13" during Q3 and more than $230M overall from the title during the first three quarters of its fiscal year, with the former figure about twice the level of a year ago. The latest sales figures for "FIFA 13" build upon what already began as the biggest sports game launch of all time. EA COO Peter Moore said, "'FIFA' has emerged as one of the world's top two or three games (regardless of genre)." Overall revenue during the quarter fell to $922M from $1.06B as the publisher, like the rest of the industry, faces the end of the current gaming console cycle. EA narrowed its loss during the period to $45M compared to a $205M loss in the same quarter a year ago.
The Premier League "has awarded the live audio visual broadcast rights for the 23-nation Middle East and North Africa region to media agency MP & Silva," according to the BBC. The deal covers all 380 EPL matches each season, from seasons '13-14 to '15-16. The firm "will be the exclusive distributor" of the Premier League TV rights, mobile and digital media for the territories of Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, UAE, Yemen, Algeria, Chad, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Tunisia, Egypt and Djibouti (BBC, 1/31).
The Australian "Marngrook Footy Show," dumped by the ABC at the end of last year, "has been given a new life on SBS after a groundswell of support" of those angered that the ground-breaking Aussie rules football show was being killed off, according to Michael Gleeson of THE AGE. The show, which began as a niche program with a cult following on community TV and grew into a program with national appeal and support, "will return to NITV on SBS." Former North Melbourne champion Wayne Carey "has signed on to appear on the show this season as a regular panellist along with former Brisbane Lions premiership player Chris Johnson, Ronnie Burns and Gilbert Macadam." News presenters Leila Gurruwiwi and Shelley Ware "will also return with the show, which has been signed by SBS on a slightly reduced budget" (THE AGE, 1/31).
In Spain, pay-TV channel Canal+ 1's broadcast of the semifinal home leg of the Copa del Rey clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona was watched by an average of 1.35 million viewers and a 7.2% share. The game, which took place at the Santiago Bernabéu, finished in a 1-1 draw (VERTELE, 1/31). ... The WTA has redesigned its official website and mobile site with more content and improved navigation, as well as the launching of a new app designed to bring fans closer to their favorite players and events than ever before (WTA). ... Broadcaster Sky Sports has been awarded three new deals for live rugby union, more than doubling its schedule of Autumn Internationals from '14. The trio of four-year agreements will give Sky Sports viewers live coverage of Ireland's Guinness Series, together with France and Italy's Autumn Internationals (Sky).