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Volume 6 No. 234


Discovery Communications and Emerald Media-backed OTT operator YuppTV "are the new players who could make a bid" for the Indian Premier League media rights, according to TELEVISION POST. The two companies bought bid documents for the IPL media rights. While Discovery has launched a sports channel, DSport, and "could be looking at TV rights," YuppTV "could eye digital rights." Companies that previously purchased documents "will not have to buy again." The BCCI reopened the IPL bids on July 21 after the earlier process "got cancelled with the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committe refusing to give the BCCI permission to go ahead with it." Discovery "will be interested in the TV rights." It is not clear, though, "whether it will make a serious bid." The company recently hired T.S. Panesar, the former CEO of Hathway Digital's video business, to head DSport in India (TELEVISION POST, 8/9). RAPID TV NEWS' Rebecca Hawkes reported the last IPL mobile and internet rights were won in Feb. '15, when Star India bid over 3B rupees for a three-year period to stream matches on its digital platform, Hotsta. Although YuppTV "has had limited sports content," it recently bought exclusive digital rights for the Int'l Cricket Council Champions Trophy 2017 for Canada and the non-exclusive digital rights for Continental Europe. Sports infrastructure firm TransStadia CEO Hiren Pandit said, "IPL is the highest-viewed sports property. If you're launching into sports online you’d want to start with IPL. I’d imagine companies like Reliance, Discovery, Amazon, Star will bid aggressively" (RAPID TV NEWS, 8/10).

The BBC "defended" sports presenter Gabby Logan over claims of "bullying" after a "heated interview" with IAAF Medical Officer Dr. Pam Venning following Isaac Makwala's "controversial disqualification" from the men's 400m final at the World Athletics Championships, according to Evan Bartlett of the London INDEPENDENT. Makwala was banned from competing "after complaining of a stomach bug amid an outbreak of the highly infectious norovirus." The runner and the Botswanan federation "subsequently hit out at the IAAF, claiming he had not been properly assessed and felt well enough to run and accused the governing body of unfair treatment." When presented with these claims by Logan, Venning said, "I have to trust my doctors. My role is to ensure the healthcare of all the athletes here and it's a very infectious and very virulent disease." Viewers of the BBC’s athletics coverage "felt Logan’s line of questioning overstepped the mark," however, with people accusing the presenter of “bullying,” “hectoring” and being “disrespectful” to her interviewee. But the corporation defended Logan in a subsequent statement, explaining that there were “important questions” to be answered (INDEPENDENT, 8/10).

FORMAL ACTION: In London, Ben Bloom reported senior IAAF figures are "considering their options after they were left furious by the BBC’s dressing down of a London 2017 medical expert." Venning joined Logan and pundits Michael Johnson, Denise Lewis and Paula Radcliffe. The IAAF is "so upset at Venning's treatment during the 15-minute segment that they are seriously considering taking formal action against the broadcaster." Venning repeatedly stated that letting Makwala race would “risk many more athletes not competing” due to the “very infectious and virulent” nature of the virus. Not content with Venning’s explanations, the athletes-turned-pundits "took it in turns to fire questions at her" (TELEGRAPH, 8/9).

Approval of 21st Century Fox's proposed takeover of Sky is "likely to come" in the first half of '18, the company said on Wednesday in "a sign it is gearing up for wider review of the merger," according to the BBC. Fox had "hoped to close the deal" in '17 but it has been delayed by regulators. It "follows concerns a deal would give the family of businessman Rupert Murdoch too much control" over U.K. news. Sky and Fox are controlled by Murdoch, who also owns the London Times and the Sun newspapers. Fox is "seeking to buy" the 61% of Sky it does not own. Fox told investors on Wednesday that "setting aside money for the deal remains a priority, noting that the company has already received necessary approvals in Europe." 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch said, "We remain confident our transaction will be approved, but more likely in the first half of 2018 than before the end of this calendar year" (BBC, 8/10).

As the NHL expands its global footprint with games in both China and Sweden this coming season, it also is increasing its outreach to int'l media, holding its first-ever European player media event in Stockholm on Friday.

The league, which has held a press event in conjunction with the NHL Players' Association for roughly the last 10 years, typically at its N.Y. HQ, decided to expand the initiative to include an event in Europe as well, tailored specifically to European rights holders and other media. 

"As we're taking the next steps to having a greater presence internationally, it has created an opportunity for our European rights holders and other European-based media companies to connect with our league, teams and players, especially the European-born ones," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. "We know the passion the fans in those countries have for the European-born players in the NHL, and we want to make sure we strengthen that connection as much as we can."

The event, being held at the TV studios of Viasat, the league's rights holder across Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, will feature 18 players from 16 teams. Eight of the NHL's int'l rights holders are scheduled to attend the event, including NBC and more than 30 other media outlets.

The event, overseen by NHL Group VP of Event Communications & Player Development Jamey Horan and the league's communication department, offers sit-down interviews, photo shoots and other media opportunities such as green-screen shooting and hockey demonstrations. Players also will be made available to local TV and radio broadcasts.

While Daly said that it is common for some of the league's biggest int'l rights holders to attend the North American media event, "this provides them a much broader opportunity to engage with the players."

"We don't want our European fans to feel like once these players have left for the NHL that they have lost all connection to them outside of watching the games on television," he said. "An event like this reinforces that, and it also gives us a chance to work even more closely with our rights holders, who are so important in helping us grow the game."

Per Nunstedt, VP of MTG Sport, which operates Viasat, said that he welcomed the league's outreach to Sweden and Europe as a whole.

"For European leagues that we hold the right to, like the Premier League, it is much easier to do things like this, but to see how the NHL recognizes the fans in these countries too is very important," Nunstedt said. "It's no secret that the interest in hockey in Sweden is huge, so to have both players and games in the country this year and not just on television is fantastic not only for the fans, but for us as a rights holder."

MTG, which has held the NHL's Nordic rights since '09, signed a five-year extension in '15 that includes broadcast and online exclusivity for all league games and events through '21 for an undisclosed amount.

Daly said that the league will look to hold a similar event in Europe next year as well, and would consider moving the location to another city. Stockholm was selected based on hosting the two games in November. However, Daly said that it was perhaps too premature to consider holding the event in multiple cities, and the league is not considering expanding the tour to China yet.

"Ultimately, our goal is to be engaging and growing the fan base and support for the NHL all around Europe, and we see enormous benefit from an event like this," Daly said.

Women's cricket "received a boost" after Channel 5 agreed to a deal with the England & Wales Cricket Board to broadcast highlights of England matches until the end of the '19 season. The agreement means that women's cricket will be shown on terrestrial TV for the first time since the 1993 World Cup final. From '20, the BBC has the rights to show "highlights and some live women's matches" (LONDON TIMES, 8/10).

WWE and PPTV announced WWE Network will be available in China for the first time beginning on Aug. 18, launching exclusively on PPTV as a subscription on-demand service featuring all WWE live pay-per-view events. PPTV customers can also download the PPTV app and watch WWE Network content via smart TVs, set-top boxes, mobile devices and tablets (WWE).

Eleven Sports secured an agreement with the Drone Champions League to deliver live and exclusive coverage of the remaining five events in the '17 season. Coverage of each event will be shown in Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Taiwan and the U.S. on an exclusive basis and in Luxembourg on a non-exclusive basis. Eleven Sports will also show a 26-minute magazine show linked to each round (Eleven Sports).

German pay-TV operator Sky Deutschland will "launch its OTT service for sports fans in Switzerland" on Aug. 17. All sports for which Sky owns the broadcast rights in Germany and Austria can be streamed in Switzerland through the web and via iOS and Android apps on smartphones and tablets. In the "forthcoming months," an app for smart TV sets and Apple TV will be released (BROADBAND TV NEWS, 8/10).

Bloomberg Media Distribution announced a partnership with Niche Sport Media to distribute its coverage of sporting events including football, boxing, golf, rugby league and cricket. The partnership began Thursday (Bloomberg).

German photographer Rainer W. Schlegelmilch's photo archive of more than 600,000 motorsport images was acquired by Motorsport Network. Schlegelmilch's collection, which dates to '62, will be added to the LAT Images archive which became part of Motorsport Network last year (Motorsport Network).

The Women’s Rugby World Cup match between France and Japan, which France won 72-14, drew an average audience of 673,000 viewers to France 4, translating to a 3% market share. Eurosport 2 also broadcast the match but did not release its audience numbers (L’ÉQUIPE, 8/10).