EC review of sports deal will head into overtime

Commission to rule Nov. 13 on whether merger is allowed

BRUSSELS — The European Commission is extending for two weeks an antitrust review of a deal that would merge Ufa Sports, the sports rights arm of broadcaster RTL, with Canal Plus’ Sport Plus and French sports marketing firm Jean-Claude Darmon Group.

The three companies plan to form a pan-European group offering a complete range of rights services, including the negotiation of TV and marketing rights for sports clubs and sales of rights to television stations. The group, which has yet to be named, will focus on soccer rights, with ties to 320 clubs across the world.

The commission will rule Nov. 13 on whether the deal can go ahead, or if it intends to launch an in-depth investigation.

If it is endorsed, the 1.1 billion euro ($978.94 million) deal will link media giants Bertelsmann, which owns RTL, and Canal Plus parent company Vivendi.

While the commission was unwilling to comment on the reason for the extension, a spokesman indi-cated to Daily Variety that extensions of this type are made either because the companies have offered concessions (such as divesting assets) to address concerns that the venture will damage competition, or (more rarely) because an EU member country has asked for the case to be referred to it for a decision.

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