Nent retains Champions League in Denmark but loses Norwegian and Swedish rights

Nordic Entertainment (Nent) Group has acquired exclusive rights to the Uefa Champions League in Denmark and exclusive rights to the Uefa Europa League and Europa Conference League in Finland, Norway and Sweden, from 2021-22 to 2023-24.

However, the broadcaster has lost the Champions League rights in Norway and Sweden, having shown European club football’s flagship competition in the two Nordic countries since its inception in 1992.

Telia, the telecoms group that owns Bonnier Broadcasting, has secured the Champions League rights in Sweden. The deal is reported to be worth around SEK1bn (€91.5m/$99.4m) per year, according to Dagens Media, the Swedish newspaper.

Nent holds Champions League rights in the current cycle, from 2018-19 to 2020-21, in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Anders Jensen, president and chief executive officer of Nent said today (Thursday) that the broadcaster has “maintained our discipline and not bid up for rights where we cannot generate a return on our investment.”

The winners of the Champions League rights in Norway have not yet been divulged. Jensen told Kampanje, the Norwegian media website: “We made a bid for the Champions League in Norway and Sweden which I believe was reasonable in terms of making money from the investment. But we weren’t even close, so someone else has put a lot more money on the table.”

Europa League rights in the current 2018-21 cycle are held by international media group Discovery in Denmark and Sweden, and commercial and pay-television broadcaster TV2 in Norway. Both are likely to have been in the mix for Champions League rights, along with Telia.

In Norway, TV2 currently sublicenses non-exclusive rights to 30 Champions League matches per season from Nent.

Jensen, who had overseen Nent’s aggressive sports rights spree ahead of the Covid-19 sports shutdown, headlined by the €2.3bn ($2.5bn) six-year Premier League rights deal in the Nordics, has himself criticised others’ lavish spending.

He told Sweden’s Dagens Industri: “Everyone has their way of calculating and their premises, but if the indications I have received are correct, then you are far past the value of these rights. It does not surprise me that we got competition, but that they are prepared to spend this kind of money surprises me.”

All matches will be broadcast by Nent on its Viaplay streaming service. A “wide range of games” will also be available on its Viasat pay-television service, and “selected games” will be broadcast on the its Swedish, Danish and Norwegian linear channels. Nent currently does not have a linear channel in Finland.

Nent does not currently hold any Uefa club competition rights in Finland. Exclusive rights to both Champions League and Europa League in the 2018-21 cycle are held by pay-television broadcaster MTV3. The Telia-owned broadcaster is the standout candidate to have now secured the rights in Finland for the next three-season cycle.

Uefa’s exclusive sales agency for club competitions, Team Marketing, initiated the sales process for media rights in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden on February 25, with a bid deadline of 10am (CET) on March 31. Nent is not thought to have been fully in favour of the move to proceed with the original bidding date in the face of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There were two concurrent sales processes for each territory in the region. One covered the Uefa Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Uefa Youth League, with the other covering the Europa League and new third-tier Europa Conference League.

Three Champions League packages were offered in the Nordics tender.

Package ‘A1’ included the 16 first-pick Tuesday-evening matches each season, plus Tuesday highlights and 33 magazine programmes (per season). Rights to 16 first-pick Wednesday-evening matches each season were included in package ‘A2’, along with rights to the Champions League final and the Super Cup, plus Wednesday highlights and 33 magazine programmes.

Meanwhile, package B included a total of 104 live matches per season or, in other words, the Champions League matches not selected in packages A1 and A2. Delayed and archive rights, plus Tuesday and Wednesday highlights. The rights to the Uefa Youth League, were also part of this package.

Nent acquisitions spree 

Uefa’s latest club competition tender came soon after Nent’s landmark acquisition of the Premier League rights and also a new rights deal for motor racing’s Formula 1 across the Nordics, gaining rights in Finland for the first time.

Nent has been aggressive of its pursuit of premium sports rights over the last two years, in some cases in processes that did not have an invitation to tender.

The deal has been announced at a time when Nent are currently undertaking measures to protect itself against the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nent’s sports rights offering has been decimated by the outbreak.

It is currently not paying any rights fees for postponed properties until they recommence and was the first leading broadcaster to outline its position as it no doubt sought to protect its share price with an early announcement.

Nent had already announced that it would seek compensation from sports rights-holders if there are “longer-term” postponements or cancellations, as well as announcing a reduction in price of its sports packages for existing customers.

(additional reporting by Martin Ross)