Polsat takes majority stake in Eleven Sports in major move in Polish market
In a major development in the Polish market, Eleven Sports, the international pay-television broadcaster, has entered into a strategic partnership with Polsat, the Polish commercial broadcaster, in which Polsat has acquired 50 per cent plus one share of Eleven Sports Network in Poland, at a price of €38 million ($44 million).
A new management board of Eleven Sports Network is to be established, comprising two representatives of Telewizja Polsat and two from Eleven Sports. Maciej Stec becomes president of the management board of Eleven Sports Network, and Krzysztof Świergiel, previous managing director of Eleven Sports Network, will act as chief executive of the company.
Eleven Sports Network said that the transaction gives it an enterprise value of approximately €80 million, adding that all representatives of the senior management of Eleven Sports Poland will keep their positions.
Eleven Sports Network, which was set up by Aser Media, the investment company involving Andrea Radrizzani, the former chief executive at the MP & Silva agency, began broadcasting in Poland in August 2015, having hit the headlines in Poland as an unsuccessful bidder for the rights to Polish soccer’s Ekstraklasa.
The deal with Polsat appears to strengthen both broadcasters’ hand to launch a new bid to acquire the rights in an auction expected to be launched later this year by MP & Silva, which holds the league’s distribution rights until 2021.
Conversely, the partnership will create heightened competition for nc+, the pay-TV satellite platform majority-owned by France’s Canal Plus, which is the main Ekstraklasa broadcaster under the existing deal, which expires at the end of the 2018-19 season. Eurosport, the pan-European broadcaster, also shows two matches a week, sub-licensed from nc+, while TVP, the public-service broadcaster, has highlights rights, plus the rights to show one match a season live.
Polsat-Eleven Sports, nc+, Eurosport and TVP are all expected to bid for rights for the new rights cycle, beginning with the 2019-20 season. Last year, Polsat acquired the exclusive rights to broadcast the Uefa Champions League and Europa League from the 2018-19, taking over from nc+ which had held the rights since 2006.
Eleven Sports holds rights for a wide range of other top sporting events and properties in Poland, and has recently renewed its deals to broadcast English soccer’s FA Cup, Spanish soccer’s LaLiga and Italy’s Serie A, among others.
In a statement announcing the partnership, Eleven Sports said: “In 2015 Eleven entered what was believed to be an impenetrable market dominated by recognised brands, and today the platform delivers premium sports action to around 2 million subscribers, its high-quality programming is carried by more than 100 operators, it runs its own OTT platform and has four channels, including a 4K service.
“Eleven Sports’ subscribers in Poland will continue to enjoy the platform’s high-quality programming, which features some of the world’s biggest and best sports properties including LaLiga Santander, Bundesliga, Serie A TIM and F1. Eleven’s offer will continue to go from strength to strength, adhering to the same pioneering strategy that has seen the platform secure several national awards since its inception in 2015.
“The agreement also supports Eleven’s global expansion plans with more new markets and several digital projects set to be revealed in the coming weeks and months.”
Those new markets include the UK, where Eleven Sports recently secured rights to LaLiga, and Portugal, where the broadcaster has secured rights to the Spanish top flight and the Uefa Champions League.
Eleven Sports’ Polish rights portfolio also includes ATP 250 tennis tournaments and sports that are especially popular in Poland including EHF Champions League handball, mixed martial arts, and speedway such as Polish Nice 1. Liga Żużlowa, Swedish Elitserien, British SGB Premiership and selected matches of the Polish speedway national team.
Marc Watson, Eleven Sports’ executive chairman and group chief executive, said: “We are very proud of what we have achieved in under three years in Poland thanks to our fantastic local management team. The agreement of this partnership with Telewizja Polsat is testament to our outstanding financial and operational success to date and our potential for further dynamic growth and development. This is an extremely exciting time for Eleven Sports and we look forward to working towards the new opportunities that the agreement presents, locally in Poland and internationally on a global scale.”
Stec, a member of the management board of Telewizja Polsat and Cyfrowy Polsat, said: “Sport has always been extremely important to our Group, our viewers and subscribers. For almost 20 years it has been one of the programming pillars of Telewizja Polsat and Cyfrowy Polsat. By having Polish fans at heart, we consistently develop our sports offer, launch new channels and bring important events to Poland.
“We have great experience in both production and execution, we cooperate with top commentators and experts, and we know what it is that viewers expect. Thanks to the strategic agreement with Eleven Sports we will strengthen our offer, make it even more appealing and continue to provide more real sports emotions.”
Eleven Sports said that it now delivers more than 25,000 live hours of top class sporting action to over 17 million paying customers worldwide in Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, Singapore, Taiwan and USA.
Of the €38 million Polsat will pay to acquire Eleven Sports, €18 million is to be paid within two working days from the date of conclusion of the contract, and the remaining €20 million in no more than four months after that date, but with the proviso that its value will be corrected by the value of the Eleven Sports Network net debt.