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Volume 10 No. 23


BT has signed up more than 2 million customers for its new sports channels, "marking early success in its battle with BSkyB," according to Daniel Thomas of the FINANCIAL TIMES. However, the costly launch of BT Sport and the acquisition of sports rights for the channels "weighed on earnings at BT, which is embroiled in a big gamble to win high spending TV and broadband customers against rival BSkyB." BT’s share price, which has risen 60% this year as "investors have embraced the more aggressive growth strategy," rose 2.4% to 378.2p on Thursday afternoon. BT said that the clear majority of the 2 million signed to its sports platform "were existing customers who would get the channels for free." This number doubled from August, and compares to 10.5 million paying BSkyB subscribers. An additional 70,000 new customers boosted BT’s overall pay TV platform to about 900,000 subscribers. As "importantly for BT," which is using TV to attract customers to its wider package of high speed fibre and calls, there were 156,000 new retail broadband customers in the quarter. This represented "more than nine in ten of the overall broadband market net new customers in the period" (FT, 10/31).

CONSUMER SALES UP: In London, Juliette Garside reported revenues from consumer sales are up 4% in the September quarter, the best performance in 10 years, and BT's TV service has added 70,000 subscribers, more than in any quarter since '08. The loss of customers with a BT telephone line -- "a key measure of defections from the company" -- fell to 65,000 for the quarter, the best performance in five years. Jefferies bank analyst Jerry Dellis fears Sky "had successfully countered the impact of BT Sport by giving away broadband free to TV subscribers had been overblown." Dellis: "Robust broadband net adds from BSkyB … had raised some concern that BT's heavy investment in TV might be having rather limited initial impact at stemming the loss of retail lines within the BT base. In fact BT Retail KPIs are quite encouraging" (GUARDIAN, 10/31).

SATURDAY HELP: In N.Y., Simon Zekaria reported BSkyB -- which has rights to more than three times the number of live matches -- "shrugged off the challenge earlier this month," saying its Premier League TV audience is up more than 20% compared with last year, "helped by a key Saturday-night live game slot." Viewing of its sports channels rose near 15% year-on-year. Still, BT said BT Sport is now in 4 million British homes, with "more than half of customers taking the channels direct from BT and others having the service via a wholesale deal with Virgin." The launch "sparked broadband sign-ups, stemmed losses of fixed-line customers and drove up consumer revenue by 4% -- its best performance in 10 years" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/31). Hargreaves Lansdown Head Of Equities Richard Hunter said, "The take-up of BT Sport from existing customers, as well as its contract with Virgin Media, puts the company in front of a whole raft of consumers. This has, of course, come at a cost, and investment in the new foray into sport has provided a drag on overall earnings. On balance, though, the company's prospects continue to whet the appetite of growth investors" (INDEPENDENT, 10/31).

Defending UEFA Champions League champion Bayern Munich "will play a maximum of two games at the FIFA Club World Cup in December, however, it is not yet known what German TV channel will broadcast the event," according to Manuel Weis of QUOTENMETER. Bayern Munich "will play against the winner of the game between the AFC Champions League champion and the CAF Champions League champion in the first semifinal" at 7:30pm German time on Dec. 17. The final of the tournament "will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco at the same time on Dec. 21." German free-to-air TV channel RTL and pay-TV operator Sky "have already said that they will not show the Club World Cup." German public broadcaster ZDF "also said that it will not air the competition." All "signs point to the event being broadcast on the country's second public broadcaster ARD." An ARD spokesperson said two weeks ago that "the broadcaster is already in negotiations." Asked about the progress of those negotiations, ARD Sports Dir Axel Balkausky said on Thursday that "he had no news" (QUOTENMETER, 10/31).

2013 FIFA Club World Cup Participating Teams
Country Continent
Bayern Munich
UEFA Champions League (Europe)
Raja Casablanca
Morocco national league (Representing Host Nation)
CF Monterrey
CONCACAF Champions League (North, Central America and Caribbean)
Atletico Mineiro
Copa Libertadores (South America)
Auckland City FC
OFC Champions League (Oceania)
TBD AFC Champions League (Asia)
CAF Champions League (Africa)
Source: FIFA

The Sportitalia channels will stop broadcasting on Friday "after nine years on the air," according to Branislav Pekic of ADVANCED TELEVISION. Founded in '04, the TV sports network of French-Tunisian businessman Tarak Ben Ammar "was present on DTT with three channels -- Sportitalia 1, Sportitalia 2 and Sportitalia 24." In protest, journalists "have proclaimed a two-day strike, because as many as 35 of them have no certainty for the future." The fate of Sportitalia was already marked since July 29, when the Sportitalia channels "were auctioned and bought by Rome-based thematic channel producer LT Multimedia, whose portfolio includes the channels Nuvolari, Marcopolo, Alice, Leonardo and Arturo." In unison with the closure of Sportitalia, Italian media group LT Media "plans to launch three sports channels (LT Sport 1-3) that will seek to replace the defunct broadcaster." The first channel "will be dedicated to football, the second to Olympic sports and the third to motor sports." Initially, the new channels "will be available only on satellite" (ADVANCED TELEVISION, 10/31).

The F1 season "has come to resemble a car at the back of the grid: fast-moving but prone to technical problems and in need of something new and exciting," according to Blitz & Allen of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel’s victory at last weekend’s Indian Grand Prix "sealed a fourth consecutive drivers’ championship for the German." Yet "the much-predicted outcome also means the final three races of the season, in Abu Dhabi this weekend, and the U.S. and Brazil later in the month, will be processional" -- of interest "only as historical footnotes and likely to hit audience ratings." In terms of sustained sporting interest, '13 "has been a write-off in F1." Is F1 "sleepwalking into stagnation?" F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "has been acutely aware of the risk of 'sameness' damaging public interest in the sport." Yet Ecclestone "has also talked up Vettel’s achievements, describing him as probably better than Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian driver." While '14 "promises further uncertainty at the top of the sport, the new season will bring the opportunity to inject some much needed competition." The cars "will have to cover the same 300km race distance but using one-third less fuel." While this has posed a stiff challenge for the teams, Mercedes in particular has "been working hard to prepare for the change and have been making confident noises about next season." The new approach "has helped entice Honda, the world’s largest engine builder, back into the sport." Will the "viewing public notice the difference?" F1 "will certainly hope so, given that this a crucial time for its relations with broadcasters." F1’s global TV audience "fell last year," down 34% in China alone. The sport "is at a crossroads regarding media rights distribution, with traditional mass-market broadcasters such as the U.K.’s BBC, RAI in Italy and TF1 in France no longer able to afford the rights fees." Ecclestone "has been pushed into doing exclusive or semi-exclusive deals with pay channels such as Sky and Canal Plus." In the U.K. and Italy -- two of F1’s largest TV audiences -- "viewers are able to see only half the races live on free-to-air channels." F1 "continues to push into new markets, particularly in Asia and the Americas, but the television audience has remained stubbornly eurocentric" (FT, 10/31).

TEAM Marketing delegate to the board Martin Wagner said at the Int'l Football Arena conference that the "UEFA Champions League Final delivered with a global TV audience of over 170 million, the highest global audience for a sports event so far in 2013," according to Paul Nicholson of INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL. TEAM, which markets the Champions League and Europa League for UEFA and does so as its exclusive business, currently generates $1.85B annually for UEFA and Wagner said that will grow and the "clubs will be happy." Behind the leap in the growth of TV rights fees in recent years "has been the entrance of advertiser funded channels as serious bidders for rights, generating competition, and pay TV providing a home for sport with dedicated channels." Mid-week, prime-time football featuring the best clubs in Europe "guarantees solid and valuable TV audiences for broadcasters." Wagner: "We have seen the effect of this in the UEFA Champions League. In 1995 to 97, over 95 percent of the revenues came from commercial or Public Service Broadcasters; in the current cycle, over 50 percent of revenues now come from pay TV partners. Digital TV research estimates that, by 2018, the number of pay TV subscribers will exceed 1 billion, a 23 percent increase compared to today." Wagner said that "selling football rights is not just about putting them side-by-side on the sports supermarket shelf and letting the rights-buying customer choose and negotiate a price." It is actually "becoming more complicated than ever before and requires a more integrated approach." The first trend "is in the sponsorship market." Wagner "quoted the PWC valuation of the global sports market" at $130B, of which $40B is sponsorship, up from $27B in '06. This "will continue to rise with the real growth opportunity coming in the area of virtual advertising" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 10/31).

So much "for live and uninterrupted coverage of the Rugby League World Cup," according to Adrian Proszenko of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Not for the first time since the tournament kicked off on Sunday, "angry viewers vented on social media about their access to the showpiece international event." The U.S. enjoyed "perhaps their finest moment on the world stage in their 32-20 win against the Cook Islands in Bristol." But "in a major embarrassment for organisers, league fans were unable to tune into the action due to issues with the host broadcaster and the satellite connection." When the matter was finally sorted, "the coverage was replayed from the start of the match rather than providing the promised live coverage." A Seven spokesperson said, "The issue was with the host broadcaster and the satellite connection. When the satellite issue was resolved and play was in progress, the host broadcaster re-cued to the start of the match and we could not broadcast live." The gaffe follows complaints from fans unable to access the coverage on the Seven Network's 7mate station, "which can only be picked up by households with HD access" (SMH, 11/1).

Modern Times Group announced it has prolonged its live media rights to Champions League football in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, from the '15-16 season through the '17-18 season. MTG is the first broadcaster in Europe to secure the Champions League media rights for this period (MTG). ... SingTel fiber broadband customers "will be able to watch the first Barclays Premier League match that kicks off on every Sunday for free on the telco's exPress Portal" (ASIA ONE, 10/31). ... The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the Japan Golf Association have launched a new Japanese Rules of Golf iPad and iPhone app featuring two of the country's leading golfers, Ryo Ishikawa and Hideki Matsuyama. The app is designed to give a guide to the rules of golf in the Japanese language and uses video footage, illustrations and images to explain the many different rules issues which can arise in a round of golf (R&A). ... EPL Sunderland and StreamAMG have launched a new online multimedia service, SAFSee. This is the EPL club's fourth video to be powered by the StreamAMG platform. The new SAFSee "opens up a whole host of content to Sunderland fans completely free of charge" (FC BUSINESS, 10/30).