BSkyB, News Corp. In Talks To Become Partners In 'Breakaway' Cycling Series
Three people familiar with the situation said that BSkyB is in talks about "becoming a partner in a new cycling championship involving most of the teams that compete in the Tour de France," according to Duff & Panja of BLOOMBERG. The U.K.'s biggest pay-TV provider "wants to increase its bet on cycling" after bankrolling Team Sky and rider Bradley Wiggins, who, last year, became the first Brit to win the Tour. News Corp., which owns 40% of BSkyB, "is interested in broadcasting the series outside the U.K." The proposed World Series Cycling is gathering pace since ruling body International Cycling Union (UCI), which has opposed it, "has been weakened" by fallout from Lance Armstrong’s doping confession. A BSkyB executive and attorney held a meeting in Geneva with 12 teams on Feb. 13, and another meeting is scheduled for Friday in Paris, two of the people said. IHS Screen Digest media consultant Tim Westcott said, "It’s an opportunistic move: it’s probably a time when people are in favor of a breakaway” championship. BSkyB spokeswoman Alice Macandrew did not immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment. The objections of UCI President Pat McQuaid had "slowed the project to a virtual standstill last year," but with teams now less fearful of retribution from the UCI, the number of teams that agreed to race in the series has risen to 12 from eight (BLOOMBERG, 2/28).