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Volume 6 No. 197


Turner Sports will launch an OTT sports service next fall with UEFA Champions League and Europa League games. Turner is expected to make an official announcement on its OTT plans this morning as part of a larger formal confirmation of its three-year, $60M English-language rights deal to carry games from the two leagues in the U.S. through ‘20-21. SportsBusiness Journal first wrote about Turner’s UEFA rights deal in February. Univision picked up the Spanish-language rights over three years for around $35M per year. “This is untethered content rights that aren't attached to any of our existing brands,” said Turner President David Levy. “It is an opportunity for us to think about how we keep the current ecosystem healthy with a strong premium video content, build out Bleacher Report with tremendous video content and then start a new OTT business. As consumers have choices and may not subscribe to cable, they’ll still have the opportunity to watch this sport and many other sports when they want and where they want.” Turner outbid BAM Tech, NBC Sports and Fox Sports for the UEFA rights. Combined with Univision’s bid, UEFA is making close to $100M annually from the U.S. market, double its previous deal with Fox. Levy said the financials work for Turner, especially given that it has rights across all platforms. “We don’t go into any businesses without feeling that there’s a profitability that is going to happen within the existing contract,” he said. “Between the portfolio of an over-the-top product, Bleacher Report and our linear channels, we will be able to afford it.”

NO NAME, PRICE YET: The OTT service does not have a name, price point, or other programming yet, according to Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels. “But we’re open for business,” he said. Levy said Turner would target premium content like UEFA, leagues and properties with passionate followings, as well as those that may only have access to television windows at odd times. “This will provide opportunity for sports that don't have a big enough presence but have unique, niche fan bases that can now launch different products with us,” he said. “This is really going to be a unique proposition for the consumer, but also for leagues that don't have the time periods or exposure that they needed.” The UEFA matches work for Turner, since games are played in daytime, mid-week time periods, when people are at school or work and more likely to use a streaming platform. As part of the deal, Turner will produce more than 340 games for OTT and television starting with the ’18-19 season, with Bleacher Report serving as a portal to the OTT service, simulcasting some games. One of Turner’s channels, most likely truTV, will carry four live Champions League games per week through the Group Stage (Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1:00pm and 3:00pm ET) and two games per week during the Knockout Phase (Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 3:00pm). All other matches will be available via OTT. The Champions League semis and finals will move to TBS or TNT. UEFA Europa League matches will be available via OTT, with the final televised on TBS or TNT. Turner also committed to carry the UEFA Super Cup on TBS or TNT. In addition to non-exclusive live games, Bleacher Report will have shoulder programming, ancillary programming and video clip that it will use on its site and social platforms.

JOINING A CROWDED FIELD: Turner joins other sports networks in launching OTT services. CBS and ESPN earlier this month announced plans for sports-centered OTT services that will launch next year; NBC Sports launched a Premier League Pass OTT service this month; and Fox Sports is relaunching its Fox Soccer 2Go OTT service into Fox Soccer Match Pass. Turner already operates non-sports OTT services, FilmStruck and Boomerang and believes that a sports focused one will be successful, using UEFA games as an anchor. “This isn’t like we’re putting a second-tier sports property on OTT,” Levy said. “This is UEFA’s Champions League and Europa. That’s the foundation that we can build all of this around.”

Seven West Media, which owns the Seven Network, "has taken aim" at sporting execs, saying that TV networks cannot keep "forking out more and more money" for Olympics and Australian Football League broadcasting rights, according to Jeff Whalley of the HERALD SUN. The network on Wednesday ­revealed it "made further cutbacks to counter the costs of its AFL package as it swung to a full-year loss" of A$744.3M ($587.2M). Seven West CEO Tim ­Worner said that the cost of getting the rights to the best sports was now at a "tipping point." Worner added, "Sports rights are undeniably valuable, but free-to-air broadcast also brings incredible value to these sporting codes. Given changes in the market, price rises are not sustainable. I think it's fair to say that sports rights have reached a tipping point in this country." He also said that future negotiations would need to reach a ­position "where the economics stand up for all parties" (HERALD SUN, 8/16).

NO FEEDING FRENZY: In Sydney, Adrian Proszenko reported Global Media & Sports Managing Dir Colin Smith, who previously helped the National Rugby League, AFL and Australian Rugby Union broker media deals, "echoed the view" of Worner. Smith said, "The broadcasters' costs are rising and by acquiring content such as AFL and NRL they're not getting more revenue. That's not sustainable long-term. Then you have the issue of whether one of the free-to-air networks survive, and if it does, in what form? It's not like there's a feeding frenzy out there attempting to acquire rights." Smith added that the "only way the NRL could ensure an increase in its next deal was by adding premium content." He suggested a team in the Brisbane or southeast Queensland regions could achieve this. Smith: "If you're not increasing your television audience, and therefore making yourself more attractive, how can broadcasters continue to pay more money? It's not possible" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/16).

DYNAMIC MARKET: The AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW's Max Mason reported while Seven is forecasting the "overall TV advertising market will improve" in '17-18 compared with the previous year and is targeting greater revenue share, the advertising market "remains a challenge for free-to-air TV." Worner said, "I think it's a pretty safe assumption that we're not operating in the same market as we were even as recently as three years ago." His comment on sports rights "will be of concern to Cricket Australia," which has begun informal discussions for its next broadcast rights deal, which will begin in Oct. '18. CA is expected to put tender documents out later this year "with a view to clinching a deal by the end of summer." Nine Entertainment CEO Hugh Marks "struck a similar tone to his Seven counterpart with regard to sports rights." Marks said, "We need to look at the financial return on all the different forms of the game. Cricket is Nine, Nine is cricket. It would be a big decision for us to walk away from that summer of Australia. But all of those things we'll have to consider hard because it's a financially challenging environment and we need to be very disciplined about our decisions" (AFR, 8/16).

VIEWING PATTERNS: In Sydney, Darren Davidson reported a "boom in sports rights locally and around the world reflects new viewing patterns in the TV industry." Viewers are "watching more programs on-demand, skipping the ads, underscoring how live sport is immune to changes in viewing patterns." New competitors such as Optus are now vying for the same rights as TV networks to package them with broadband and mobile services. This has "driven up the prices the networks pay for rights" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/16).

Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey admitted that the organization "faces a major challenge as it plans the way races are viewed in the future," according to Adam Cooper of MOTORSPORT. Carey acknowledged that "generating income from fans who are willing to pay for a premium service while also keeping sponsors happy by reaching the widest possible audience via free-to-air will be challenging." F1 is planning to offer its own premium OTT service, "which promises to be very lucrative." Carey said, "In terms of the television arena that we deal with, I guess the way to describe it is that there are three or even four potential arenas that we are engaged with. Traditional free [to air], pay, digital and then our own probably more direct 'over the top' product. To some degree, what you have is conflicting goals across them." Carey is "adamant that digital is the future, although it will not be a fast transition." He said, "It’s more and more heading to various forms of digital platforms. I don’t think it will happen as fast as some people think -- because some habits die hard, and there is a value in volume and choice" (MOTORSPORT, 8/16).

Discovery Communications struck a streaming deal in Germany and Austria with Amazon that gives Amazon Prime members access to Eurosport's premium live HD sports content, including exclusive Bundesliga coverage on Friday nights across Germany. Eurosport launched on Amazon channels on Wednesday. Amazon Prime members will be able to access all of Eurosport's premium sporting events, including Grand Slam tennis, MotoGP and the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. All sporting events will be available live and on demand from the Eurosport Player channel through the new Amazon Channels streaming service in Germany and Austria. Eurosport Player will be available through the Prime Video app on smart TVs, mobile devices and Fire tablets, as well as Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, or by signing up online at (Discovery). BROADCASTING & CABLE's Jon Lafayette reported earlier this year, Amazon launched Eurosport and Discovery channels in the U.K. Financial terms were not disclosed (B&C, 8/16). In L.A., Scott Roxborough reported the Eurosport channel will be available for $5.84 a month to Amazon Prime customers in Germany. The German deal follows Amazon's agreement with the NFL, announced earlier this year, to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games for its U.S. Amazon Prime members (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/16).

With "just over a year" until the first European Championships, broadcasters BBC and ARD-ZDF "unveiled their plans for coverage of the new event," according to Jenny Priestley of TVB EUROPE. The European Championships aggregate the existing senior continental championships of athletics, aquatics, cycling, gymnastics, rowing and triathlon with golf team championships organized by the European Tour and Ladies European Tour. The event will take place in Glasgow and Berlin in Aug. '18. The European Broadcasting Union is the broadcast partner of the Championships and "has so far signed agreements with almost 40 broadcasters to ensure the event will be viewed free-to-air in all major markets." Eurovision Media Services will be the host broadcaster and will distribute the event to rights-holding media organizations worldwide. The BBC and ARD-ZDF are the Championships' partners in the host markets (TVB EUROPE, 8/16). The official opening title sequence for the inaugural European Championships was also unveiled at the media event organized by '18 co-hosts Glasgow and Berlin. The European Sports Federations, Glasgow, Berlin, the EBU, the BBC and ARD-ZDF worked together with British and German design agencies to create titles that represent the coming together of the seven sports and two host cities in a groundbreaking partnership (EBU).

FIBA hired South American sports marketing and media company Torneos to oversee the distribution of broadcast rights for its leading competitions from '17-25. Torneos will act on behalf of FIBA in striking broadcast agreements for the distribution rights to FIBA's national team events across Latin and South America (FIBA). 

Digi Slovakia will provide up to seven sports channels in its basic package solely in HD from the beginning of September. Sales & Marketing Dir Roman Vavrik said that the offer will be "unmatched by any other operator in Slovakia" (BROADBAND TV NEWS, 8/16).