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Eurosport makes two-year commitment to swimming’s ISL

Discovery-owned sports broadcaster Eurosport has acquired rights in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region to the new franchise-based International Swimming League.

Eurosport has secured the rights for the 2019 and 2020 editions in a deal that includes digital rights, but excludes Australia, where a separate agreement is likely to be signed with a national broadcaster.

Exclusive sublicensing rights in all territories except Australia and USA are also part of the agreement.

All seven matches taking place in USA, Italy, Hungary and the UK will be screened by Eurosport and on its subscription OTT service Eurosport Player (in Europe only).

The new series, which has been the subject of lengthy legal disputes between the organisers and Fina, swimming’s world body, will feature star swimmers such as Adam Peaty (UK), Katie Ledecky (USA), Cate Campbell (Australia), Federica Pellegrini (Italy) and Florent Manaudou (France).

The ISL will be the first professional league for elite swimmers and, Eurosport said, will offer “cutting-edge production and a never-been-seen before live show”.

Laurent Prud’homme, Eurosport’s senior vice-president of rights acquisitions and syndication, said: “The agreement with the ISL is strategically important for Eurosport, strengthening our portfolio of premium rights and continuing to tell our Olympic story with over 70 per cent of summer Olympic disciplines screened on our channels across the globe.”

Konstantin Grigorishin, the Ukrainian billionaire and ISL president, claimed that the Eurosport agreement has ensured “unprecedented massive coverage in Europe for a brand-new competition”.

The ISL was initially set to launch last year but organisers cancelled the competition after alleging that Fina had threatened to ban any swimmer who took part – a claim denied by swimming’s international federation. Following legal action from ISL and a group of top swimmers, Fina then relented and said in January that swimmers who competed would not face any sanctions, although records would be unverified unless it had approved the event in advance.

In response to the ISL, Fina launched its own Champions Swim Series, an event that was this year broadcast by Eurosport across Europe.

The seven-match ISL will feature teams from Hungary, Italy, the UK and USA and begins at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis on October 5. Following matches in Naples, Budapest, London and two more US venues, the inaugural competition will come to a close at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino from December 20 to 21.