Viaplay Group has agreed to acquire UK sports streamer and TV channel operator Premier Sports for £30 million (€35.2 million) on a cash and debt-free basis.
According to the group, the move marks a significant acceleration of its ambitions in the UK, ahead of the launch of the Viaplay streaming service in the country this autumn. Premier Sports’ portfolio of ports rights complements the rights that Viaplay has previously secured for the UK, and its platforms are available across the UK through long-term distribution agreements with Sky, Virgin, Amazon and Netgem TV. In addition to content and distribution, the acquisition will also deliver synergies with Viaplay in sports production, while boosting Viaplay’s local brand awareness amongst viewers.
Premier Sports’ UK sports rights include La Liga, Scottish Cup, Scottish League Cup and Coppa Italia football; United Rugby Championship, Rugby Football League and Top 14 rugby; NASCAR motorsport; and the Elite Ice Hockey League.
Premier Sports currently has a total of 222,000 paying subscribers to its pay-TV channels Premier Sports 1 and Premier Sports 2 and streaming service Premier Player. The company also operates the advertising-funded TV channel FreeSports. All Premier Sports platforms will receive Viaplay branding and will continue to be available through existing distribution partners. The content line-up available on the TV channels will, in due course, be expanded to include Viaplay’s broader series and film offering.
Commenting on the transaction, Anders Jensen, Viaplay group president and CEO: “This acquisition will put Viaplay firmly on the UK map and accelerate our development in this key market. Premier Sports has a loyal and expanding subscriber base, well-established distribution agreements and production capabilities, and a great sports portfolio that complements our own. There is also a big opportunity to make Viaplay’s wider offering, including our award-winning Viaplay Originals, available to Premier Sports’ subscribers. We have secured this growing and profitable business at an attractive valuation. This is a fast and effective route to building an even stronger position for Viaplay in the UK”.
Richard Sweeney, Premier Sports CEO, added: “At Premier Sports, we’re proud to have created a dynamic, innovative sports streamer and broadcaster over the past 13 years. From modest beginnings, and through the hard work and dedication of our people, we have continually grown the company, and today we have an extensive portfolio of must-see live sports that entertain loyal customers across the UK. Our sale to Viaplay Group will dramatically increase the content available to new and existing subscribers. This is the start of an exciting new chapter in the development of the business, and is great news for our colleagues, customers and partners”.
Founded in 2009 and majority-owned by Setanta Sports, Premier Sports’ revenues grew by approximately 33% in 2021 to £26.4 million. The company is based in Dublin and has 23 full-time employees, all of whom are expected to join Viaplay Group after the closing of the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval.
As a result of the acquisition, Viaplay will expand its UK offering at launch to two streaming packages: the Films & Series package focused on the `best of Nordic storytelling’ with Viaplay Originals and premium third-party content, and the Total package including Viaplay and Premier Sports’ combined sports line-up, alongside Viaplay’s Films & Series offering. Further details of Viaplay’s UK content, pricing and launch date will be announced in due course.
In a related development, Viaplay Group has appointed Edward Breeze as SVP and head of Sports UK, effective. Breeze has held a range of executive positions in the UK sports industry, and in his new role he will lead Viaplay Group’s sports operations in the country. Breeze will join Viaplay Group in October from DAZN, where he is currently EVP Rights. He has previously worked at Perform, Inform and Octagon. Breeze will become a member of Viaplay Group’s sports leadership team, reporting to Peter Nørrelund, Viaplay Group chief sports officer, and will be based in London.