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Discovery weighs sharing premium sports rights for Eurosport

Discovery boss David Zaslav has told TBI that it is weighing partnering with other media companies to make joint bids for premium sports rights.

David_Zaslav_1A deal to take control of the Eurosport channel will close within weeks and there is mounting speculation that deep-pocketed Discovery will refine the pan-European sports broadcaster’s business model and start chasing premium rights in key territories.

Speaking ahead of Discovery’s annual Upfront event in New York, CEO and president Zaslav told TBI that with a majority stake in Eurosport in hand it will be disciplined, but look at taking premium rights and making joint bids and sharing rights.

“There are a lot of opportunities, particularly for joint bidding for content that look attractive,” Zaslav said. “Many people are buying sports rights but can’t broadcast all of the content. We could become, by putting in a little, the platform that carries some of the content but not all of it.”

Historically, Eurosport has secured rights to key events – notably winter sports, tennis and cycling – but not entered bidding rounds for the top-level in-territory premium rights such as the English Premier League in the UK or Bundesliga in Germany.

The next round of bidding for UK rights to EPL soccer will get underway this year. The rights are currently shared by BSkyB and BT Sport. Discovery has acquired EPL rights in partnership in partnership with Romtelecom and content is shared between Eurosport and the pay TV platform operator in Romania.

JB Perrette“The reality is that we do already play in tier-one football rights, but not in their local territories,” DNI’s new international CEO JB Perette told TBI. “We have Premier League Rights in Romania and Bundesliga rights in a lot of territories, but not Germany. We will be looking at a lot of things as we want to be aggressive, but we also want to be smart and selective.

He added: “We will be creative about how we approach it. We’ll think broadly about partnerships.”

Zaslav said the first step will be to integrate Eurosport with DNI’s operations. “Right now it’s mostly pan-European and its infrastructure is in France,” he said. “The first synergy is to localise it working with TF1 across all our 55 countries.”

Discovery said in January that it would increase the 20% stake it took in Eurosport in December 2012. The deal to take a 51% share in the sports broadcaster values it at over US$1 billion.