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Volume 10 No. 25


Sky TV "appears close to clinching a deal" that would see it retain the rights to broadcast National Rugby League matches in New Zealand, according to Steve Deane of the NEW ZEALAND HERALD. Having agreed to a one-year deal this time last year to cover the '12 season, Sky and the NRL "have been in negotiations for several months over a long-term deal" that will run concurrently with the five-year, A$1M ($1.02M) broadcast rights deal inked by Fox and Channel Nine in Australia. With the NRL season due to kick off in just eight days, "the clock is ticking." While both parties "could conceivably go beyond that date -- with Sky broadcasting matches on a 'good faith' basis -- there are signs a deal is close." The unconfirmed recruitment of Australian veteran Andrew Voss as a lead commentator for Warriors matches is another signal Sky "is confident it will secure a product that is a major subscriber driver." A Sky spokesperson said that the network "could not comment on the commentary situation, or any league matters, until a broadcast deal was signed" (NZ HERALD, 2/27)

While Cricket Australia hopes for a A$500M ($513M) pay day, Channel Nine "seems reluctant to enter a bidding war with other television networks vying for the broadcast rights," according to Jon Pierik of THE AGE. Host broadcaster Channel Nine still believes that "it is best suited to televise the sport, but will face challenges from the Seven and Ten networks," with new Ten CEO Hamish McLennan signaling his network's strong interest this week. Cricket Australia "is after a bumper return for the rights." But Nine Managing Dir Jeff Browne hinted on Tuesday that "may not eventuate." Browne said, "Cricket as a product has not seen escalating ratings and, crucially, many scheduled days have been lost for weather [and] uneven opponents. Also, it is largely played outside the ratings period.'' An analysis of Test matches broadcast during the now expired seven-year, A$315M deal, reported recently in "The Australian Financial Review," reinforced the difficulty networks "can have in making money from sports rights." Nine's clause in its contract "allowing it to match the highest offer means it is still expected to retain the rights, despite its exclusive window for negotiations having closed" (THE AGE, 2/27). In Sydney, Ferguson & Kwek reported McLennan has confirmed that he "will bid to take the broadcasting rights to the sport," worth more than A$400M over the next five years. McLennan, who starts at the network next month, said ''cricket is the next cab off the rank'' in terms of his strategy. Ten "will also bid for the broadcasting rights to the Australian Open tennis, which are held by Channel Seven." By bidding for cricket, the new CEO hopes to attract a ''broader audience'' for Ten. One source said that "Ten could jointly bid with Fox Sports for the rights." McLennan declined to say how the TV network would fund the bid, but said that Ten "had low debt and a strong balance sheet." He said, "It is widely accepted that sport should be critical to programming. How we bid for any programming is a confidential nature. The board and shareholders are supportive of rebuilding our schedule" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/26).

The coverage of next season’s FA Cup is "likely to be the most contentious issue" in the sale of ESPN’s U.K. operation to BT Sport, according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. The FA’s agreement with the Disney-owned company "stipulates that the competition must be covered on their network." But although BT will have an ESPN channel, "showing a lot of American sport," as part of its three-station package, it wants the FA Cup on its flagship channel along with its 38 Premier League games. The ESPN sale signals the "demise of their flawed" U.K. strategy. The critical mistake was "getting into bed" with its main rivals Sky rather than taking them on head to head for subscribers. ESPN’s deal with the satellite giants, which saw its sports output being shown on the Sky platform, "meant the Murdoch operation always had the controlling hand" (DAILY MAIL, 2/25).

A LET UP FOR SCOTS: The Scotland DAILY RECORD wrote Scottish football has been "handed a boost" as BT takes over from ESPN and signs new deal to broadcast Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League matches until '17. BT made its first foray into Scottish football by agreeing a £12M ($18.2M) deal to buy ESPN’s U.K. and Ireland TV channels. SPL CEO Neil Doncaster has "welcomed the proposal and reckons it will provide some much needed financial security for our national game." Doncaster: "It means top-flight football will continue to be broadcast by Sky Sports and now BT, providing a solid financial bedrock and the best possible platform to promote the game in Scotland" (DAILY RECORD, 2/26).

A new online research study, conducted by OmnicomMediaGroup and ESPN, has revealed that Latin American sports fans have changed their daily media consumption and sports information-gathering routines due to advances in technology which allow for multiplatform, simultaneous access to devices like computers, laptops and smartphones. Another finding has revealed that fans are increasingly exposed to and use social media for their sport information gathering and promotion. While TV is still the top option, other devices are gaining popularity and making it so that they have real-time sports updates 24/7. The 68% of respondents say they follow sports/teams using different devices simultaneously now more so than they used to. The study also concluded that the use of social media has also played an important role in shifting sports-consumption behavior. Facebook is the most popular social forum for sports and is visited once a day or more (75%) followed by Twitter (47%) and YouTube (41%) (ESPN).

News Corp. Deputy COO James Murdoch, son of the media company’s founder Rupert Murdoch, said that "viewers in Southeast Asia and Latin America will help fuel growth for its cable-programming business in the next two to three years," according to Edmund Lee of BLOOMBERG. Murdoch said, "India is a very important market for us -- it’s one of our largest international markets. We’ve also made great strides in South America over the last few years, particularly the launch of our sports business there." Murdoch said that News Corp. also "wants to streamline some of its overseas businesses that aren’t consolidated." Last month, the company increased its stake in German pay-TV company Sky Deutschland AG, "giving it majority control and putting it a step closer to creating a pan-European broadcaster" (BLOOMBERG, 2/26).

The Premier League announced BSkyB and BT have been awarded seven packages of live audio-visual rights for transmission in the Republic of Ireland for seasons '13-14 to '15-16 (Premier League). ... Pay-TV channel Canal+ has secured the rights to live Premier League matches in Vietnam from '13-14 through '15-16. The French broadcaster has licensed the rights from IMG and will have access to all 380 matches per season (Canal+).