A "key broadcasting arrangement between Sky and BT Sport that could save European club rugby is in the process of being brokered" by Rugby Football Union CEO Ian Ritchie, although an agreement between the two companies "is some way off," according to James Riach of the London GUARDIAN. The protracted European club rugby saga, which has threatened the Heineken Cup's future existence, "has rumbled on for 18 months but Sky and BT are in tentative discussions to share the TV rights and potentially bring an end to the current impasse." Both broadcasters "have previously signed deals to show matches involving England's clubs from next season, the separate contracts representing a key factor in the impasse between the various unions and clubs, who disagree about commercial, structural and financial aspects of any future European tournament" (GUARDIAN, 2/14). In London, Ben Rumsby reported "an agreement between Sky and BT to share the TV rights was seen as crucial to rescuing European club rugby from the abyss and sparing both broadcasters and governing bodies from litigation that could do irrevocable damage to the relationship between them." So "deep is the enmity" between Sky and BT that it is understood that there "have been no direct talks between the broadcasters," with Ritchie -- who has played a leading role in peace talks with all stakeholders and whose CV includes a stint as CEO of Channel 5 -- "instead acting as a go-between." While neither company "wants to be seen as having backed down, each recognises the unique predicament it has been left in and the potential consequences of gambling on the courts deciding which -- if any -- of them has a legitimate contract in place and whether either has a valid claim for compensation" (TELEGRAPH, 2/13).
ESPN finished '13 as the leading global digital sports brand. In a year of int'l growth, 154.5 billion minutes were logged via online and mobile devices. Global visits increased 14% from '12 to 17.4 billion. ESPN was the No. 1-ranked global online sports brand by average minute audience in '13 and the company's mobile properties now account for 41% of total digital (non-video) minutes. ESPN's combined website reached an average of 62.1 million unique visitors a month via computers -- desktop and laptop --, with non-U.S. markets comprising 42% of the total. The number marked a 15% increase in average monthly unique visitors. Globally, mobile visits increased 24% from '12. ESPN registered 2.3 billion online global video starts, a 15% year-on-year increase. Outside the U.S., online video improved by more than 80% from '12. ESPN's U.K. portal, ESPN.co.uk, registered its best year, with more users spending time on the site than ever. It averaged nearly 2 million unduplicated online and mobile unique users -- a 9% increase from the previous year (ESPN).
German public broadcaster ZDF "obtained a market share of 21.4% on Saturday, partly due to its Olympics coverage," according to Timo Niemeier of DWDL. A total of 2.17 million people tuned in on Saturday at 8am to watch the women's Super-G race. The number translated into a market share of 35.1%. In the target demographic 14-49, the Super-G race in which Germany's Maria Höfl-Riesch won Silver had a market share of 28.8%. Following the Super-G race, ZDF aired the men's hockey match between Slovenia and Slovakia. The game attracted 1.85 million viewers and had a market share of 24.7%. The women's cross-country skiing relay was watched by 3.11 million viewers and obtained a market share of 31.7%. However, the most-watched event on Saturday was ski jumping. The men's large hill event attracted 6.2 million viewers starting at 6:45pm. The number equaled a market share of 23.2%. In the target demographic, the event was watched by 1.23 million viewers and had a 14.4% share (DWDL, 2/16).
ARD ON FRIDAY: DWDL's Marcel Pohlig reported German public broadcaster ARD received high ratings for its Sochi coverage on Friday. The women's biathlon race attracted 5.4 million viewers on Friday afternoon. The number equaled a market share of 38.8%. In the target demographic, biathlon was watched by 1.03 million viewers and had a 22.6% share. Following the biathlon event, ARD showed the women's skeleton competition, which attracted 4.23 million viewers and had a 24.1% market share. Even men's figure skating was watched by 4.45 million viewers. The free skating competition had a market share of 17%. In the target demographic, men's figure skating attracted 960,000 viewers and had a 11.9% share (DWDL, 2/15).
AUSTRIA: DER STANDARD reported "more than 1.1 million viewers tuned in on Saturday to watch the men's ski jumping competition on Austrian public broadcaster ORF 1." On Friday, the men's super combined "was watched by 587,000 viewers on ORF 1" (DER STANDARD, 2/16).
SingTel and StarHub have "still not secured a deal to broadcast the World Cup in Brazil, risking a replay of the fiasco in 2010 when a last-minute deal jacked up prices for fans," according to Irene Tham of the STRAITS TIMES. Although the World Cup "kicks off in less than four months on June 12," both firms said on Saturday that they are "still in discussions" with FIFA. More than 200 territories including Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia have secured rights. In Singapore, however, telecoms "have been in talks" with FIFA for more than a year. The issues are "over the cost of the rights, unfavourable match timings and the cross-carriage rule." StarHub, which has been in discussions with FIFA since '12, said that the "cost of sports content has continued to soar" (STRAITS TIMES, 2/16).
Man City is launching an app for Barcelona fans traveling to Manchester for Tuesday's Barça-City Champions League clash at Etihad Stadium, according to Moisés Llorens of AS. Available on iOS and Android devices, "'Can City' offers fans recommendations on what to do and where to visit to in Manchester." With one "press of a button, Barcelona supporters will have access to information about the city, including how to reach the stadium using various means of transportation" (AS, 2/16).