“Football is not a matter of life and death…it’s more important than that”.
This observation by Bill Shankly, one of the greatest football managers of all time, still holds true many years after his death and no more so than in the TV industry. Football, and sport in general, has for a long time been and remains the big driver for pay-TV the whole world over.
Earlier this week saw a fascinating auction for the rights to the premier football league in Poland Ekstraklasa reach its conclusion, with a consortium of Canal+ and TPSA outbidding one of Polsat and ITI. However, in securing a lucrative three-year deal, the winners had to promise they would make matches available to third parties – essentially cable operators and rival DTH platforms – at the insistence of not only Ekstraklasa but also the clubs themselves.
The deal will see the launch of a new TV channel dedicated solely to Ekstraklasa matches and will no doubt provide a further boost to football in Poland as it gears up for Euro 2012, which the country will jointly host with Ukraine.
Yet this news has been somewhat offset by a dispute that has broken out between Multimedia Polska, the country’s third largest cable operator, and Eurosport over the issue of carriage fees. PIKE, the leading electronic communications trade association, has entered it by issuing a critical statement about Eurosport and its failure to treat the Polish cable industry as partners.
A few years ago, the respective parties would have eventually reached an accommodation of sorts. Now, however, an entirely different situation exists, with cable, and indeed other platforms, having the option of several local sports channels to choose from. Certainly later this year, major sporting events such as the Beijing Olympics and Euro 2008 will be more than adequately covered by Polish TV channels in general – and indeed others in CEE – and viewers across will feel no need to tune into foreign services.
The going for foreign programmers, offering content across a whole spectrum of genres, is generally getting harder across the region. All will have to continue to adapt in order to maintain their presence in an increasingly competitive marketplace.