Sky Deutschland’s new Bundesliga contract has provided clarity and a base to build on, writes Julian Clover.
It’s business as usual for News Corp. This week Sky Deutschland mopped up the vast majority of rights to the German Bundesliga at a cost of €485.7 million per season from 2013/14 through to 2016/17. . All things being equal it will be money well spent.
There are signs of life within the German pay-TV market with a three-way battle emerging between satellite, cable and IPTV. After reports of a couple of dozen parties looking to bid for the rights it came down to those with the deepest pockets; Sky and Deutsche Telekom.
Last time around the curious slicing and dicing of the rights packages gave Telekom its own category, but Sky’s bid took satellite, cable, the Web, IPTV and mobile. Telekom will have to ensure its subscribers have access to the Sky Sport channels. There is no alternative.
Public broadcaster ARD, whose Sportschau programme is to Germany what Match of the Day is to England (viewers in Scotland have their own programme at that time), has been able to maintain its weekly highlights package. ARD (Das Erste) also gets seven live matches per season, which provides some fairness to the German fan who does not want or cannot afford Sky, while providing a handy showcase for the satcaster.
Acquiring a commanding share of sports rights is of course a tried and trusted method of ensuring that you have the pay-TV network that everyone talks about. It should not go unnoticed that the rights to three of the world’s test playing cricket nations, England, the West Indies and India, are now with News Corp affiliated groups.
In the UK Premier League football is a key plank of the Sky Sports schedule, but it is not the only event as slowly, but surely Sky has been able to take many of the major events. There is still room for ESPN, Eurosport of course, and some smaller sports channels, but Sky Sports is where the action is for football, cricket, golf, motor racing and darts. Sky’s sponsorship of British cycling remains an area to watch.
There is no question that the Bundesliga will maintain and build Sky Deutschland’s subscriber numbers, but what we need to watch are the other sports that help Sky build a portfolio that already includes golf, Formula 1 and ice hockey.