With the 2018 World Cup almost upon us, it seems that sport has never been more important for the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe.
Just today (May 25), we have learned that Poland’s leading broadcaster Cyfrowy Polsat has agreed to buy a 50% plus one share stake in Eleven Sports Network’s (ESN’s) local subsidiary for €38 million.
The move is important on many levels and a win-win for both parties. It will allow Cyfrowy Polsat to significantly develop ESN, whose channels will join its rapidly expanding sports portfolio. At the same time, it will enable ESN, which has its headquarters in London, to continue its global expansion by entering new markets and launching new digital projects.
ESN’s sale to Cyfrowy Polsat comes hot on the heals of the news that Orange will shortly launch a sports channel in Slovakia offering such exclusive content as the UEFA Champions League. It is interesting to note that the project is being undertaken in cooperation with O2 Czech Republic, which has secured exclusive rights to the Champions League in the Czech Republic and Slovakia for the next three seasons.
As for the upcoming World Cup in Russia, the competition will only be covered in Ultra HD by a few broadcasters in CEE. In Poland, they include the new channels TVP 4K and Canal+ 4K Ultra HD, as well as Orange TV.
However, it has just been reported that it will not be available to viewers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia for what has been described as technical and legal reasons, with M7 Group having offered Czech TV and RTVS (Slovakia) the opportunity to show direct broadcasts in the format.
This contrasts with the situation in Western Europe, where Canaal Digital, NPO, Sky Deutschland and Swisscom are among the broadcasters that will show the World Cup in Ultra HD. Elsewhere, the Turkish public broadcaster will offer coverage on its proprietary channel TRT 4K.
All in all, these are eventful times for sports broadcasting in the CEE region and we can expect much more to come in the near future.