Nordic Champions League bids still due Tuesday despite broadcasters' outrage
By Jonathan Rest
Uefa and the Team Marketing agency are pressing ahead with tomorrow's deadline for bids for media rights to European club competitions in the Nordic region, despite opposition from broadcasters - indeed dismay in some quarters - given their focus on the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic that has decimated budgets and is threatening jobs.
The sales process in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway began on 25 February, with bidders given until 10am (CET) on 31 March to submit bids for the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle. Separate tenders were issued in all four countries.
As in other markets where deals have been concluded, there is one sales process for the elite Uefa Champions League, Super Cup and Youth League, and one for the second-tier Uefa Europa League and new third-tier Europa Conference League.
The tender was launched soon after Nordic Entertainment Group sealed a stunning six-year swoop for English Premier League rights in the Nordic region, for a fee believed to be around $2.5 billion, and quickly followed that up with German Bundesliga rights, but the dramatic spread of, and subsequent impact of, the coronavirus has altered broadcasters' focus.
NENT, US media giant Discovery, Nordic telecoms firm Telia and TV2, the Norwegian commercial broadcaster, are among those expected to be involved in what, for Uefa and Team, was set to be a highly-competitive and financially-rewarding tender.
However, Sportcal understands at least one media entity in the region had requested to Uefa that the tender be postponed or the deadline delayed for a few weeks while the industry "gets to grips with the current situation we are living in."
Another said it had "shared with Uefa its concerns that at a time when we are in crisis management, when management teams are worried about getting feeds to air, not putting their people in harm's way and trying to keep environments clean and safe, we should not be going to our board about a multi-million dollar bid for football rights that doesn't come in until the back end of 2021.
"This is not the right time. When you are trying to save money so you don't have to fire people, this is the wrong priority."
Unmoved, Uefa told Sportcal today: "We can confirm that tomorrow’s deadline for the Nordics tender is correct."
One broadcaster in the Nordics told Sportcal it was "dismayed" by Uefa's insistence the tender should proceed regardless, with another executive noting: "This is not the time for my team to be poring over the terms of a tender when people's health and jobs are at risk."
The Bundesliga recently announced it is now likely to award its next cycle of domestic rights in June, a month later than intended, citing the impact of coronavirus.
It was an example Nordic media executives expected Uefa and Team to follow, but one said: "They [Uefa] will be in a worse position [financially] now than they would have been six weeks ago. But likewise I think they know they will be in an even worse position in six months' time if they delayed this process than today."
Earlier this month, NENT announced it would not be paying any rights fees for postponed properties until they recommence and said it will seek compensation from rights-owners if there are “longer-term” postponements or cancellations.
While the group is financially stable, the coronavirus outbreak has put at risk the company’s stated ambition to deliver profitable growth in 2020 because of a negative impact on advertising demand, which accounted for 26 per cent of the group’s sales in 2019.
NENT holds Champions League rights in Denmark, Norway and Sweden until the end of 2020-21 season, and sub-licenses rights in Norway to TV2, which also shows the Europa League.
Late last week, Discovery announced it was borrowing $500 million to boost its cash position during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It also withdraw its fiscal performance outlook for 2020, citing the as-yet “unknown impact” of the virus on its financial results and the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games until 2021.
At present, Discovery holds Europa League rights in Denmark and Sweden.
MTV3, the commercial broadcaster in Finland, holds rights to both the Champions League and Europa League.