BERLIN — In an effort to bankroll its ambitious plans, including the launch of a new sports channel showcasing its recently acquired top league Bundesliga soccer rights, German cabler Unity Media will issue a Euros 1.35 billion ($1.63 billion) bond.
Unity topper Parm Sandhu has said the move would allow its sports rights and broadcast subsidiary Arena to finance the approximately $1 billion investment in Bundesliga rights and the production of live game coverage over the next three years. The bond, to be handled by Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, will run until 2013.
In acquiring the Bundesliga rights in December, Arena edged out Premiere, until now Germany’s only pay TV platform to carry the Bundelsiga live.
Dejan Jocic, Arena’s head of programming, said Arena would seek to match Premiere’s subscription levels of 3.6 million customers within three years. Many of Arena’s new subscribers will likely defect from Premiere, where Bundesliga soccer has long been staple programming.
In order to entice viewers, Arena is already boasting a special earlybird monthly rate of $12.00, with the regular price at $18.00, compared with Pre-miere’s basic package at $24.00.
Unlike Premiere, which also offers some two dozen channels, including movie and erotic outlets, Arena will, at least initially, focus solely on the Bundesliga.
However, the channel has inked a programming deal with Sony’s action web AXN to broadcast a window on Arena’s satellite channel between soccer matches.
Arena is partnering with satcaster Astra and will also broadcast via cable in limited regions where Unity operates, including the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. Company is expected to soon ink a broader carriage deal with Germany’s biggest cabler, Kabel Deutschland.
Arena will start broadcasting the new 2006/07 season this summer and is in the process of setting up the new digital pay TV sports outlet.
Industry observers have questioned whether Arena would be able to get the necessary infrastructure into place and launch the new channel in time for the kick-off of the new Bundesliga season in August.
Premiere had sought to strike a sublicensing deal with Arena in an attempt to retain at least some Bundes-liga coverage, but Arena execs reiter-ated on Monday (March 27) that there were no talks with the rival paybox.
Unity Media is controlled by equity investment groups Apollo and BC Partners.