SBS Discovery Media Secures Rights for Soccer World Cup, Euro Cup Qualifiers

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The SBS Discovery deal will cover all European qualifying matches over the next four years.

The deal will see Discovery's group of Nordic channels exclusively air international soccer matches ahead of Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

COLOGNE, Germany – SBS Discovery Media, the pan-Scandinavian broadcast group Discovery Communications acquired for $1.7 billion earlier this year, has signed a major sports programming deal, inking with European soccer governing body UEFA for exclusive rights for all European qualifying matches ahead of the 2016 European Cup and 2018 soccer World Cup.

The agreement, announced Thursday, gives SBS Discovery exclusive rights across TV, online and mobile platforms for all 546 qualifying matches involving European teams over the next four years.

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It is the second major rights deal UEFA has signed with a commercial broadcaster in as many weeks, following last week's agreement with German network RTL for exclusive rights to qualifying matches involving the German national squad.

Traditionally, UEFA has dealt mainly with European public broadcasters and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an association of Euro pubwebs.

UEFA has centralized the sale of all qualifying matches at a single sales agency, CAA Eleven, for the first time. Previously the national soccer federation in each competing country had the rights to their own home games. By collectively selling the rights, UEFA hopes to boost overall revenue. Its first deal, in April, was with the EBU for games covering 30 of Europe's smaller markets. UEFA held back bigger territories, including the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain, where there is sizeable competition from commercial bidders.

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The Discovery deal also highlights a shift in the company's programming strategy in Europe, with an increased focus on sports. In addition to the UEFA deal, Discovery late last year paid $223 million (€170 million) for a 20 percent stake in pan-European sports network Eurosport from French broadcaster TF1. Discovery has an option to increase its stake to 51 percent next year, after which TF1 could exercise a put option requiring Discovery to buy up all remaining shares.