Smoking Hot: Tinder Experiment
Andrea Radrizzani, founding partner of MP & Silva, the international media rights agency, has said that three international media groups are keen on acquiring domestic broadcast rights to Belgian soccer’s top-tier Jupiler Pro League, but that Belgian broadcasters are not interested in exclusive deals.
MP & Silva was appointed in the middle of February as the adviser to Pro League in a six-year deal covering domestic and international rights to all matches, and the Belgian professional league has been working with the agency to prepare the tender for the rights from next season onwards.
Radrizzani told De Tijd, the Belgian financial newspaper, that preliminary discussions had taken place with broadcasters with regards to the rights from next season onwards, but conceded that the talks had not been straight forward.
He said: “The local players don’t want exclusivity any more. Unlike in other countries where we operate.
"This is worrying and could be detrimental to the quality of the Belgian league. By contrast, there are three international players who are interested in the exclusive rights."
Radrizzani did not want to identify the international trio’s identity, but did say that there was one “usual suspect” interested.
The league sold its rights for the current contract cycle (from 2011-12 to 2013-14) in deals that were worth an initial €55 million ($76.1 million) per season and, having won most of the packages, Telenet, the telecommunications operator, partnered with VOO to show matches through its platform.
Telenet bought five of the six packages, including the top three live matches per week, while rival Belgacom picked up the remaining package of five Saturday evening fixtures per week, but this package was non-exclusive and Telenet subsequently acquired rights to those games too.
The tender process is expected to be launched shortly after Easter, and MP & Silva expects a deal or deals to be agreed by the middle of May.
Ahead of MP & Silva’s appointment, Fox International Channels, the international television business of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, was widely tipped to have an interest in rights until now held by Belgian’s dominant telecoms companies. MP & Silva also has close ties with BeIN Sports having launched channels in southeast Asia in co-operation with the premium sports broadcaster controlled by Qatar’s Al Jazeera.
Commenting on the talks in the Belgian market, Radrizzani said: “The first four or five weeks, we have met all the media operators and listened to their needs. But eventually we found no agreement, there was always a party that did not agree.”
Speaking earlier this month after reports in Belgium that broadcasters in the country were becoming increasingly edgy about the rights sales process, Pro League insisted that it remains on course to launch its tender with MP & Silva on time.
MP & Silva, which is in the process of opening up an office in Brussels to service its agreement with Pro League, was chosen ahead of a bid by Telenet to create a league television channel.
Telenet’s failure to convince the clubs to approve the league television channel project does not, however, mean it has missed out on retaining domestic rights, with the telecoms firm likely to be among a strong line-up of pay-television bidders in the tender process.
MP & Silva was reported to have promised a sum of up to €70 million per season for the first three seasons, and €80 million per season for the following three seasons, as guarantee fees for both the domestic and international rights.
Radrizzani described the agency’s minimum fee guarantee as a “risk that we take,” but claimed that MP & Silva has ‘”ever had any problems on that front.”
Speaking in February at the time of the MP & Silva deal, Ludwig Sneyers, Pro League’s chief executive, said that the first three rights packages in the tender from 2014-15 onwards would include live rights and would be offered exclusively as well as non-exclusively.
Highlights rights to the Belgian league are held by VTM, the Flemish-language commercial broadcaster, and RTBF, the French-language public-service broadcaster, until the end of this season in sub-licensing deals with Telenet worth a combined fee of around €8 million per season.
bwin.party Receives SpringOwl Board Nominations
Operator’s second largest investor set to gain board representation after making four proposals to the board
Bwin.party investor group SpringOwl has moved to increase its influence in the running of the operator following its nomination of four independent non-executive directors to the board.
According to The Telegraph, SpringOwl, which is led by former gaming analyst Jason Ader (pictured), has proposed the appointments of entrepreneur Michael Fertik, lawyer Francis Grady, venture capitalist Kalendu Patel and Innovation Group founder Steven Rittvo.
Rittvo is the only nomination to have any notable gaming experience.
In a statement bwin.party said it would be “circulating the details” of the investment firm’s board nominations to shareholders in time for its Annual General Meeting on 22 May.
“The Board is considering SpringOwl’s proposal and will make a further announcement in due course,” bwin.party said.
The nominations come amid increasing pressure from the US-based investment company after it bought a 6.1% stake in the company in February to become bwin.party’s second largest investor.
In a recent exclusive interview with eGaming Review, Ader said he backed the leadership of bwin.party CEO Norbet Teufelberger but added that he needed to be “surrounding himself with a better team”.
Ader also added the operator should look at a potential split of the company and that investors were obliged to question senior management following poor post-merger results.
Bwin.party said in a note to shareholders that the four board nominations appeared to be in addition to the investment firm’s existing right to appoint a new board member.
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