Premiere wins German soccer rights

Share price rises 6% on news

BERLIN — Germany’s News Corp.-controlled Premiere secured the live broadcast rights for Bundesliga soccer matches for the next four years, signing a new contract with the German soccer league, DFL, that sent the paybox’s share price soaring another 6% on Friday, after it rocketed 40% on Thursday, amid frenzied speculation of an imminent agreement.

Pubcaster ARD won the rights to show first highlights at 6:30 p.m. — about 75 minutes after Saturday matches end — while ZDF and sport network DSF also got rights to show some highlights at less attractive hours in a deal worth a total of Euros 412 million ($533 million) per season for the DFL — for the four-year period from mid-2009 to mid-2013. The package was just slightly above the $530 million DLF got for the current season running through June 2009.

“We’ve come up with quite a presentable agreement,” said DFL president Reinhard Rauball. “The potential for growth was limited due to the fact that we’re in an extremely difficult media market at the moment and due to disadvantages caused by anti-trust agency decisions.”

Most of the Bundesliga matches are on Saturdays at 3:30 p.m., with one on Friday evening and two on Sunday evenings. Premiere, which has long tried in vain to prevent any free TV highlight broadcasts before 8 p.m. on Saturdays, got a concession from the league, which will introduce a new 6:30 p.m. match that, in theory, will compete with ARD’s popular 6:30 p.m. highlights show in free TV.

“We got the best deal the market had to offer,” said Christian Seifert, DFL managing director.

He confirmed speculation that Disney web ESPN had made an offer for the Bundesliga rights, which are the centerpiece of Premiere’s programming.

Premiere shares jumped to $6.45 on the news on Friday, a gain of more than 6%, after they had risen 42% to $6.07 on Thursday. Premiere’s share price took a beating in 2005 when it initially failed to secure the rights at the last auction in 2005 in a costly gamble for more exclusivity that backfired — before winning them back in August 2007 from regulators for an accord with cable operator UnityMedia.

Premiere’s share price has been one of the most volatile in the German stock market. It had a brilliant week, rising from $4.59 on Monday to $6.45 on Friday. In October its share price was halved in one day to $5.94 after it issued a profit warning and admitted it had nearly 1 million fewer subs than shown on the books. It jumped 37% earlier this week after it was announced that Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest had acquired a 3% stake.

News Corp. is the paybox’s single largest shareholder, having upped its stake to 25% since the beginning of the year. Nearly 38.5% of the paybox is publicly traded, with the remainder owned by several private equity firms and Premiere execs.

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