Virgin Media "is planning to issue one of the world’s largest junk bonds since the end of the financial crisis to help fund" its $23.3B acquisition by John Malone’s Liberty Global, according to Stothard & Budden of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The U.K. cable operator is set to borrow £2.3B ($3.6B) in bonds and another £2.3B worth of loans in the coming weeks, "loading more debt on to Virgin Media but reducing the financial burden of the deal on Liberty Global." The high yielding junk bonds, which are issued by companies seen to be at greater risk of default than investment grade groups, "are likely to receive attractive terms when they price this week." Strong risk appetite "has pushed junk bond yields to all time lows" of below 6% this year. However, this did not stop Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s "placing Virgin Media under review for downgrade on Wednesday," with Moody’s saying that it "expected its senior debt to lose three notches and fall into junk territory." The deal "will create the largest broadband communications company in Europe" with 25 million customers across 14 countries. Liberty Global said that it plans to save $180M from the two companies’ combined annual operational and capital expenditure budgets. Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries "played down expectations of a bidding war against BSkyB," the U.K. satellite broadcaster, for prized content such as live football rights, saying that the cable operator "would not bid for premium content" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 2/6).
GOING GLOBAL: Liberty Global's acquisition of cable operator Virgin Media follows its significant investment in German cable in '09 and '11 and establishes the operator as the largest cable company in Europe. Analysys Mason senior anaylst Cesar Bachelet said that the acquisition brings benefits to both parties. Increased critical mass and resulting economies of scale will give an enlarged Liberty Global even stronger negotiating power with content owners as well as vendors. Liberty Global will in turn benefit from virgin mobile's experience, and success, with deploying mobile services in the U.K (Analysys Mason).
NBC expects the ‘14 Sochi Games to be profitable, a marked reversal from the $223M loss from the '10 Vancouver Games reported by former network owner GE. Speaking during a press conference Tuesday, NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said Olympic advertising sales are "pacing extremely well." He added, "This will be a very good moment (financially) for our company." Lazarus said the net's ad sales and distribution deals, including a first-ever Winter Olympics deployment of every event live on digital platforms, have made it possible to avoid similar losses in Sochi. NBC's sales team has benefited from having an extra night of primetime programming to sell. The IOC added a dozen new sports events, such as snowboard slopestyle and team figure skating, and needed to expand the Olympics from 17 to 18 days in order to schedule the competitions. As a result, NBCTuesday announced that its primetime coverage of the Sochi Games will begin a day earlier than usual (Mickle & Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
Al Jazeera-owned beIN Sport's initial reach and programming slate "pale compared to giants like ESPN and NBC Sports Network," but the "newbie is betting that smart marketing can help it compete," according to Andrew McMains of ADWEEK. beIN has hired TBWA\Chiat\Day, N.Y., “to create ads in the U.S.” The ad agency’s challenge is “formidable: create a brand identity in a crowded field of national sports nets.” Beyond that core branding challenge, beIN also has “a significant disadvantage in reach.” ESPN has distribution to more than 98 million U.S. homes, followed by Golf Channel with 84 million and NBC Sports Network with 78 million. When Fox Sports 1 launches later this year, "it will likely become the new No. 2.” A source estimated that beIN, which is not tracked by Nielsen, reaches “no more than 10 million homes.” Nomura Equity Research analyst Michael Nathanson said that the “reach disparity is beIN’s greatest challenge.” Another “potential obstacle” for beIN is “soccer saturation.” While the growing U.S. Hispanic population has “fueled demand" for the sport on TV, that demand already is served by sports nets and broadcasters like Telemundo, Univision and Fox Soccer Channel” (ADWEEK.com, 2/5).
German public broadcaster ARD "has received top ratings" for its coverage of the Int'l Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine World Ski Championships from Schladming, Austria, according to Fabian Riedner of QUOTEN METER. ARD's broadcast of the women's Super G race on Tuesday, which started at 10:50am German time, attracted 1.21 million viewers and translated into a strong market share of 15.3%. In the target demographic 14-49, the race was watched by 190,000 viewers or a 6.4% share. Foggy conditions, however, postponed the race several times. At 2:25pm, ARD continued its broadcast from Schladming. The channel's audience increased to 2.21 million viewers and its market share reached 17.9%. In the target demographic, the market share increased to 8.7%. In addition, pan-European sports channel Eurosport also received high ratings for its broadcast of the race. A total of 200,000 viewers tuned in to watch Slovenian Tina Maze win Super G gold. The number equaled a strong 1.6% market share (QUOTEN METER, 2/6).
HANDBALL FLOPS: QUOTEN METER's Riedner also reported German sports channel Sport1 "had trouble reaching the marketing-important target demographic with its handball broadcasts." Sport1 was able to attract an average of 250,000 viewers to its broadcast of the handball DHB-Pokal (national cup) quarterfinal game between SG Flensburg-Handewitt and the Rhein-Neckar Löwen on Tuesday. The number equaled a slightly above average market share of 0.8%. However, in the target demographic only 40,000 viewers or a 0.3% market share tuned to watch the game. Therefore, Sport1 "wants to show, among other things, fourth-tier football games on Tuesday evenings over the next several weeks" (QUOTEN METER, 2/6).
SUPER BOWL HIGHS: QUOTEN METER's Manuel Weis reported "the ratings for Super Bowl XLVII on German private channel Sat.1 after 3am German time were even higher than the ones before." At 3am, an average of 730,000 viewers watched the NFL's season finale. The number translated into a market share of 28%. In the target demographic, the market share reached 38.9%. The game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers had its peak audience between 3:54am-4:46am, the game's fourth quarter. During this time period, Sat.1 attracted 690,000 viewers, and the market share reached 40.4%. In the target demographic, the game's decisive quarter was watched by 560,000 viewers (QUOTEN METER, 2/5).
Sky Sports has announced that parts of F1's final preseason tests from Circuit de Catalunya "will be broadcast on its 3D network," according to Richard Lawler of ENGADGET. While F1 has tested the use of 3D before, it has never been broadcast and F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has previously said that "3D will never be used." Sky Sports referred to the event "as a one-off," while commentator Martin Brundle is quoted in the press release calling it a "special moment for F1 fans...a new immersive experience for viewers" (ENGADGET, 2/6). ... Nova Broadcasting Group has secured the exclusive TV rights to all 380 Premier League matches for the seasons '13-14 to '15-16 in Bulgaria (Nove Broadcasting).
... BBC Sports announced the release of “a free mobile application for iPhone and iPod touch devices for international users.” The app “provides football transfer news, along with live text coverage of many different sports.” Video and an Android version “will be introduced soon” (BBC SPORTS, 2/6).