Seven’s $75 Mil Buys Olympic Gold

The Seven Network made Australian sportscasting history this week by signing a $75 million deal to snare the broadcast rights Down Under for both the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

In a frenzied week, the broadcaster also unveiled a Chinese program supply deal, established an independent production subsidiary and announced a record profit.

The Olympic deal provides the network with all-encompassing exclusive broadcast and pay television rights to both Games, as well as assignment rights, allowing the company to sell aspects of the coverage to other Australian broadcast and pay TV channels. The deal includes radio rights to the Atlanta Games.

The pay TV rights are likely to go to Seven shareholders News Corp. and Telstra, which are partners in a pay TV venture.

Seven is also set to supply programs to at least three provincial broadcasters in one of the world’s biggest television markets, if negotiations presently under way are successful.

At an interim results press conference, the Network announced its purchase of 80% of Hong Kong-based media company Waverley Intl., which is well-advanced in talks for the development of commercial TV co-ventures in China.

Finance director Peter Day told Variety the Chinese negotiations are focused on barter deals with provincial broadcasters, in which Seven/Waverley would supply blocks of programming time to the channels and take advantage of the advertising slots in those time chunks.

Three such deals are tipped to come through in the next few months, representing an initial investment of $10 million. If successful, the web plans to spread across more of Asia.

Seven also announced the appointment of U.K.-based producer Graham Benson as chief executive officer designate of the network’s new international production company, Seven Productions Intl. (SPI), which will produce series for broadcast and subscription television in international markets.

“We have experience in low-cost video production for television and we should capitalize on that,” Day said, foreshadowing the release of further details in April.

Benson will remain as chairman of Blue Heaven Prods. in the U.K., producers of “The Ruth Rendell Mysteries,” until plans are completed.

Meanwhile, Seven revealed a record net profit of $59.2 million for the first six months of the financial year, a hike of 18% on the previous year, on a 10.4% jump in sales to $253.8 mil.

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