Discovery Communications, via its growing control over Eurosport, is considering bidding for the English Premier League (EPL) TV rights.
The Guardian quotes Discovery’s president and CEO David Zaslav who confirms Discovery is interested in the rights. “We will look opportunistically at everything, strong sports rights can be very compelling and ‘must have’ content for viewers and advertisers,” he said. “Eurosport is very strong in the UK and we’ll will look at all rights in the UK and Europe and make a strategic decision.”
Last week Discovery increased its stake in Eurosport to 51 per cent, with France’s TF1 owning the remaining 49 per cent. “The more we saw it the more we loved it,” Zaslav told The Guardian. “One of the reasons we wanted to move earlier [than planned] is the opportunity to move quickly and build Eurosport in terms of brand and sports rights in its markets.”
Discovery is an increasing force to be reckoned with, growing its revenue base in Europe by some 20 per cent annually and this success in a market that is flat in terms of ad-revenues. It has bought or launched free-to-air services in Italy, Germany and the UK, and did not rule out buying the UK’s Channel 5.
But Discovery is not alone in seeking value out of the EPL. As well as BT Sport, there is no reason to imagine that either Al Jazeera Sport or Abu Dhabi Media could be bidders, as could any other deep-pocketed player. Or success could come from a media broker such as MP & Silva, who successfully acquired the EPL rights for the Gulf region last July.
MP & Silva are international media brokers, and operate far beyond the Gulf. Recent deals by them cover Brazil’s Serie A football championships to Europe and Asia. They hold the rights for Formula 1 broadcasting to the Middle East, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland until 2019. They also hold the TV rights for FIFA’s World Cup tournament in Italy (for the 2018 and 2022 events). There are dozens more exclusive deals where MP & Silva acts as the middle man for valuable TV rights. These include live TV rights to the FA Cup in Asia and some European countries, and they already understand the Barclays Premier League (seasons 2013-2014) and look after TV sales across 51 countries including some in Europe, as well as the MENA and Asia regions.
The EPL auction is expected to be opened this coming winter.