Premiere scores soccer rights through 2013

Billion dollar deal is key to the company's survival

COLOGNE, Germany -- Germany pay TV group Premiere has secured top Bundesliga soccer rights for the next four seasons in a billion dollar deal that is key to the company’s survival.

Locking up German soccer rights is an essential part of CEO Mark Williams’ plans to restructure the 307 million euros ($392 million) in debt that is weighing Premiere down. Coming just before the Christmas season, the news should also help Premiere grab new subscribers as it rolls out its holiday campaign.

Premiere shares, which soared more then 40% Thursday on rumors of a done deal, jumped a further 4.5% Friday. The stock, however, is still more than 60% down on its value this time last year.

There had been speculation that News Corp, which controls 25% of Premiere and ESPN-parent Disney were also circling the Bundesliga rights but in the end the new deal looks a lot like the old deal.

Premiere will have exclusive pay TV rights for all Bundesliga games with German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF airing match highlights. Sports channel DSF will carry games from the German second division league.

A new playing schedule, however, and the introduction of a primetime “Match of the Week” feature will allow Premiere to show a lot more soccer than it does now.

The group will pay a premium for the privilege. Premiere currently pays around 200 million euros ($255 million) for the Bundesliga. Under the new deal it will pay around $287 million for the 2009/2010 season, rising to about $350 million for the 2012/2013 season.

In total the German Soccer League will earn $534 million a season under the new agreements.
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