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Volume 10 No. 23


Eurosport's new majority shareholder, Discovery Communications, "is considering using its deep pockets to take on BSkyB and BT in the next multibillion-pound war for Premier League TV rights," according to Mark Sweney of the London GUARDIAN. The owner of the Discovery factual channel, which has a market capitalisation of $28B, "is eying up the UK sports rights market after a deal last week to fast-track its acquisition of a controlling stake in Eurosport." Bidding for the next three-year EPL TV rights deal "is expected to start later this year." Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav said that "his company is considering a bid." Zaslav: "We will look opportunistically at everything, strong sports rights can be very compelling and 'must have' content for viewers and advertisers" (GUARDIAN, 1/24).

Andy Gray's return to co-commentary for the first time since losing his Sky job after making off-camera sexist comments in '11 "earned BT Sport a mixed reception," according to the London GUARDIAN. Gray, who has worked alongside former colleague Richard Keys on TalkSport and in Doha since the row, "made a one-off appearance" at Stevenage -- "prompting some viewers to threaten to cancel their subscriptions over BT's apparent endorsement of sexist views" (GUARDIAN, 1/25). In London, Charles Sale reported the fact beIN Sports agreed to Gray working for BT Sport, even on a one-off basis, "opens up some intriguing possibilities over future shared football ambitions." It "will cause huge concern" for Sky if beIN Sports and BT "join forces for the next Premier League rights auction" (DAILY MAIL, 1/24). In Dublin, Ben Rumsby reported the decision to appoint Gray, widely credited with reinventing football punditry in Britain during almost 20 years at Sky, "is part of a wider strategy" to build a relationship with Middle East network beIN Sports, formerly Al Jazeera Sport. BT Sport’s appointment of Gray for Saturday’s game "could lead to further appearances on the new network." And if his U.K. TV return alone "fails to create shockwaves at his former employers at Sky, a blossoming relationship between BT Sport and a broadcaster whose financial muscle dwarfs even that of its bitter rival just might" (IRISH INDEPENDENT, 1/24).

It was Nine Network CEO David Gyngell's A$450M ($392M) "ouch moment" as he described it last June, the moment when Nine Entertainment retained cricket "but at a price many in the industry saw as too high," according to Nick Leys of THE AUSTRALIAN. The investment "has paid off." Nine is ending the summer "with a spectacular set of figures" led by Australia's 5-0 victory over England in the Ashes and an ad share for December of 45.9% off the second, third and fourth Ashes tests. Gyngell: "Cricket is part of Nine's DNA but I have expectations on any rights we buy because we need them to perform strongly." The Ashes series achieved an average audience of 1.128 million across metro markets and a combined audience (metro and regional) of 1.653 million. At the same time, Ten "has made the most of its coverage of the shorter Twenty20 games" off the back of its A$80M investment. While those figures "have bounced back" and Sunday night's final "will undoubtedly prove a big win for the network, Seven will be disappointed on the overall figures" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/27).

Austrian TV channel Puls4 "will take its dispute with public broadcaster ORF to the country's media authority KommAustria," according to KURIER. ORF "has won the Champions League rights in December and will once again live broadcast the competition starting with the '14-15 season." Puls4 "does not want to accept this outcome and takes its complaint to KommAustria." Puls4 said that ORF has purchased the rights for an "inflated, commercially unjustifiable price," therefore, ORF has distorted the competition. Puls4 calls on KommAustria "to review the process and ultimately reverse the illegitimate process." ORF called the accusations "unprecedented" (KURIER, 1/23).

German public broadcaster ARD "scored high ratings with its sports broadcasts on Saturday," according to Daniel Sallhoff of QUOTENMETER. The return of the Bundesliga "Sportschau" program, which started at 6pm German time, attracted 5.62 million viewers. It was the most watched Sportschau since Nov. 9. In December, no Sportschau edition attracted more than 5.32 million viewers. Later on Saturday night, 3.24 million people tuned in to watch the boxing match between Tyron Zeuge and George Beroshvili, which started at 10:36pm. The viewership increased to 3.9 million for the main event between Marco Huck and Firat Arslan. The numbers translated into market shares of 11.6% and 20.3%, respectively. In the target demographic 14-49, the market shares were 4.1% and 8.5% (QUOTENMETER, 1/26).

The battle between home communications giants Sky and BT "will heat up with figures due from both firms amid reports that Sky is in talks over a tie-up with Vodafone to curb the power of their resurgent rival," according to the PA. Sky "has been left reeling" after losing out on the U.K. rights to show Champions League and Europa League matches in November as BT "continues to step up pressure." Sky and Vodafone "have been discussing ways to strengthen their defences against BT," possibly involving a deal on Sky's sports and mobile channels and working together on a high-speed broadband service (PA, 1/26). In London, Simon Duke wrote Sky's profits are "set to tumble more than 10% following BT’s attack on the satellite broadcaster’s sports stronghold." Sky saw pre-tax earnings slide from £610M to about £540M between July and December, according to forecasts. Sky, which publishes first-half results on Thursday, "has been hit hard by BT’s aggressive push into the sports arena." Sky has spent more than £2B amassing a bevy of broadcast rights, including Premier League and Champions League football and rugby. Its raid on the English top-flight football alone will add £220M ($363M) to Sky’s overheads this year, according to the investment bank Morgan Stanley (SUNDAY TIMES, 1/26).