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Champions League TV auction “likely delayed”

The Deutsche Bank TMT conference in London heard that the TV rights auction for UEFA’s Champions League series of football games is likely to be delayed from now (this September’s expectation)  to the Spring or even Summer of 2017.

William Field, founder of Prospero, who has advised UEFA, Premier League and others; and Robin Jellis, Editor of TV Sports Markets, told delegates that the election of a new UEFA President and unresolved problems between the clubs and leagues over the future shape of the event would mean a delay.

A Deutsche Bank report highlighted that in terms of rights packaging, UEFA could end up selling packages of matches to several pay broadcasters rather than have an exclusive pay broadcast relationship to maximise rights income. The UK and Italy were seen as most likely markets for this.

“Italy was seen as the market UEFA was most likely to target for the first rights sale given the risk to competition, should a Mediaset-Vivendi deal resume. Discovery/Eurosport and Sky Italia were seen as the key threats to incumbent (Mediaset Premium). But Mediaset was still seen as most likely winner with Champions League a key component of their Premium offer.

The bank says that for the UK, UEFA was not seen as likely to worry about BT retaining all the rights (despite lower audience share) as long as the price was higher than Sky’s bid. Past reports had suggested BT could be less attractive as a broadcast partner to UEFA due to a drop in audience reach versus the prior deal under ITV & Sky. Retention of rights by BT was seen as the most likely outcome, as without Champions League, it would be left with a year of very few major rights before the next Premier League round commences (season 2019/20).

“Sky and ITV were seen as interested, but likely to be less aggressive. A potential split of rights from the current single, exclusive, relationship was considered a potential outcome of the sales process as the best way to maximise income,” says the bank.

“In Germany, the current situation of a split of rights between pay-TV (current rights holder, Sky Deutschland) and free-to-air (ZDF) was seen as a potential area of change. A shift to all rights on pay-TV was seen as a potential change to maximise rights value, albeit likely to be politically unpopular. PERFORM was seen as the key risk to incumbent, Sky Deutschland following their failure to win live Bundesliga rights (Discovery was the entrant alongside SkyD in the July auction) and Perform’s launch this year of the DAZN OTT service, currently Discovery/Eurosport was again seen as an outside risk for pay-TV rights.”

The French auction was seen as offering least competitive tension and scope for lowest rights inflation. Altice seen as unlikely to be aggressive against incumbents, Canal+ and beIN Sports. It was noted that under proposed new UEFA format, France was not one of the leagues where the top 4 clubs are guaranteed Champions League qualification (Spain, England, Germany and Italy only).

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