Sky unveils new rights deals as profits fall

UK pay-television broadcaster BSkyB today announced the acquisition of long-term rights deals for rugby league’s European Super League, the British and Irish Lions rugby union touring team, the England national cricket team, Scottish football, speedway and WWE wrestling entertainment.

Sky extended a rights deal for the Super League, which comprises clubs from England and France, in a five-year deal, from 2017 to 2021. The broadcaster, which will show live coverage of at least 80 Super League matches per season, added that it has also secured live rights for Challenge Cup knockout tournament matches, second-tier Championship matches and the annual World Club Challenge under the deal with the Rugby Football League national governing body.

The broadcaster acquired exclusively live coverage of the Lions team’s 2017 tour to New Zealand, extending a partnership with the Lions to a sixth consecutive tour.

Under the cricket deal, Sky will show two more England overseas tours as part of a deal with the New Zealand Cricket national governing body. The agreement includes England’s tours to the country in 2018 and 2020 as well as the New Zealand national team’s home series against West Indies, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and South Africa.

In an new four-year deal with the Scottish Football Association national governing body, from 2014-15 to 2017-18, Sky will show exclusive live coverage of Scotland national team home friendly matches plus the Scottish Cup and Scottish FA Youth Cup knockout tournaments. Sky will show up to nine games live from every round of the Scottish Cup, both semi-finals – one exclusively live – and the final live in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Sky will broadcast exclusive live coverage of speedway’s top-tier Elite League for five years, from 2014 to 2018, under a deal with the British Speedway Promoters Association. The deal covers at least 25 meetings per year.

The rights for WWE will run for five years, from 2015 to 2019, and include weekly programming and 12 pay-per-view events per year.

Meanwhile Sky has posted an 18-per-cent fall in pre-tax profits to £527m (€641m/$870m) for the six months through to the end of December 2013. Total revenues grew by 6.3 per cent to £3.75bn, but Sky’s adjusted operating profits fell by eight per cent year on-year to £595m, largely due to costs associated with the acquisition of rights to the English Premier League football top division. Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch said that the emergence of BT Sport as a rival pay-television broadcaster had not hurt the company, adding that viewing figures of Sky Sports are at a six-year high. “We are moving through a year of investment in which we are absorbing the one-off step up in Premier League costs well,” he said.

Darroch added that the £2.3bn investment in Premier League rights for the three seasons from 2013-14 to 2015-16 – a 40% increase on the previous cycle – did not mean that the broadcaster will pay any price for the rights in future cycles. “Of course the Premier League is an important set of rights (and) we will go in with a clear view of what we seek to achieve,” he added, according to the Guardian newspaper. “With any set of rights there is a price beyond which we don't think it provides value. That was the case with the (Uefa) Champions League. It accounted for just three per cent of viewing and there were better ways (to invest).” In November, BT Sport agreed to pay about £299m per season for the Champions League rights for three years, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, dislodging Sky and commercial broadcaster ITV as UK rights-holders.