Eurosport to broadcast Champions League in Singapore

A new player in the lucrative world of football programming has emerged and secured one of the prized assets in the live sports market.

Eurosport, which is part of American media giant Discovery Communications, announced yesterday that it has acquired exclusive media rights to the Champions League in Singapore, beginning with the 2015/16 campaign.

It is understood that it paid about $15 million for rights to all 350 matches for each of the next three seasons of Europe's top football club competition, until 2018.

The channel outbid local telcos Singtel and StarHub to seal the deal with Uefa, the governing body of football in Europe.

The Media Development Authority's cross-carriage rules are not applicable in this instance, as the content was acquired by a third party and not by either of the two pay-TV operators.

Eurosport will broadcast one live match each on Wednesday and Thursday mornings throughout the season. A highlight show will follow each live match, and all additional matches will be made available to viewers online.

Said its chief executive, Mr Peter Hutton: "Champions League on Eurosport in Singapore is a game changer for our presence in Asia. With the addition of mid-week live premier football in Singapore, we will ensure Eurosport becomes even stronger across the region."

The acquisition is an important move for Discovery, which is trying to raise its profile in Asia, said international sports media rights company MP & Silva's founding partner Andrea Radrizzani.

He said: "This is a good opportunity for Discovery to reposition their sports channel with a high profile brand and content. The general trend in media in the last few  years showed that entertainment content are not exclusive anymore to traditional pay tv and they can be accessible by viewers anytime anywhere on several platforms (YouTube and Netflix to name some).

"Live Sports is the only content that drives subscription and for which platform can maintain an exclusivity as the 'live' offer is unique and generate revenues stream and loyalty to the platform."

But he stopped short of saying it would be a game changer, saying: "I wouldn't say it is decisive. The games are played late at night, so it is hard to say it will drive subscription."

Findings released last year by consulting firm A.T. Kearney indicated that football remains the king of sports. Its global revenue increased from US$25.1 billion in 2009 to US$35.3 billion (S$47.5 billion) in 2013, while media rights accounted for 40 per cent of sports event revenues.

Eurosport also boasts cycling's Tour de France and tennis' US Open as part of its programming, and is available on StarHub TV's sports group, which costs $19.26 per month on top of subscription to the basic group ($31 monthly, before GST). It is understood that negotiations are under way for a new deal between both parties.

Singtel has screened the Champions League since 2009. A year later, it reportedly spent close to $400 million to wrest exclusive broadcast rights to the English Premier League from StarHub.

Singtel did not rule out looking to add Eurosport to its stable for the next season. Its spokesman said: "We are still several months away from the start of the new season, so anything can happen."

jonwong@sph.com.sg