Incumbent Sky Deutschland rules itself out of EHF Champions League renewal

Pay-television operator Sky Deutschland has publicly withdrawn its interest in renewing its rights in Germany to handball’s EHF Champions League.

Sky has broadcast handball’s showpiece European club tournament for the last six seasons. Its previous exclusive agreement ran from 2017-18 to 2019-20, and included exclusive rights in Austria and non-exclusive rights in Switzerland.

But the broadcaster told Quotenmeter, the German media website: “Our clear focus in handball is on the long-term broadcasting of the Liqui Moly Handball Bundesliga. With this in mind, we have decided not to renew our contract for the EHF Champions League.”

The pay-television broadcaster has broadcast the Handball Bundesliga since winning the rights (alongside public broadcasters ARD and ZDF) from the 2017-18 season onwards. Sky’s rights deal for the country’s handball top flight runs until the end of the 2022-23 season. Sky’s output from the Handball Bundesliga will swell by 74 matches next season as the league has increased to 20 teams (from 18) with no teams having been relegated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sky’s turn away from the EHF Champions League comes as the rights-holder’s new ten-year international rights contract signed by the Infront agency and digital sports media company DAZN Group begins with the 2020-21 EHF club competitions.

The agreement, which includes the men’s and women’s EHF Euros (from 2022 to 2030) as well as the EHF club competitions, is worth €500m ($593.4m) in rights fees alone, with an additional spend on production and services.

Less than one month before the 2020-21 competition begins, it remains unclear where the EHF Champions League will be broadcast in one of the sport’s key markets.

One option could be via the DAZN OTT streaming platform itself.

Speaking at January’s Spobis conference in Düsseldorf, DAZN Group chief business development officer John Gleasure addressed the perception that DAZN could face a conflict of interests.

Gleasure, who recently became DAZN’s executive vice-chairman in a reshuffle, said: “We are a buyer but there has to be a transparency. In Germany or any market that we’re in there has to be that clear transparency. This is something that we’ve always built into every partnership we’ve done.”

Citing one of “multiple examples”, he referenced the “fair and open” sale of Fiba World Cup rights in Germany – a DAZN market – to telco Deutsche Telekom.

In order to ensure a fair process, Infront is expected to take the lead on rights sales in markets in which DAZN operates.

Due to the revenue-share element that DAZN Group and Infront would enjoy over and above the minimum guarantee, both parties are incentivised to derive the largest fee from any particular market (as opposed to awarding the rights automatically to DAZN).

Gleasure, who stressed the need to have “Chinese walls”, continued: “Each of us has clear roles and responsibilities and it’s important to retain that transparency as a broadcaster as well as a broadcast partner.”

However, he added: “Equally, having us a partner and if there are problem markets then obviously that helps with us having the ability [to stream matches].”