Zaslav: Eurosport Eyes ‘Premier’ Sports Rights

Discovery Chief Says International Network Could Partner, Go Alone

New York – Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav said the programming giant’s international sports network – Eurosport – could begin looking to expand into more traditional (and more expensive) premier sports rights in the future.

At a Discovery Networks International breakfast presentation here Thursday, Zaslav praised Eurosport, in which the company agreed to purchase a controlling interest from French sports giant TF1 earlier this year. The deal is expected to close shortly.

Eurosport has carved out a niche in providing programming in sports like tennis, skiing and cycling.

At the New York presentation, Zaslav said the addition of Discovery’s global scope – its networks are available in 55 countries – should help Eurosport appeal to a broader market. And that could mean acquiring rights to events that have broader appeal.

“We have the ability to go for anything. What’s more likely is that we’ll be disciplined,” Zaslav said. “The business is profitable today – they’ve been smart about locking in their key sports for the next several years – tennis, winter sports and cycling. Then the question becomes do we broadly or in select markets look to really drive much more aggressively into premier sports? We’re looking at that.”

Zaslav added that there could be opportunities for Eurosport to partner with other networks or broadcasters for rights, allowing the channels to share the airings of games.

“In markets where there are competitors bidding for premier content, in many cases they’re bidding for a package where they are buying so much content they can’t put it all on the broadcast platform,” Zaslav said. “In an environment where we would put in a little, we become the platform that carries some of the content but not all.”
Eurosport did a similar deal for Barclays Premier League games in Romania.

Zaslav’s comments came about a week after he told a U.K. audience at the FT Digital Media Conference in London March 27 that Discovery could bid on English Premier League soccer games.