Discovery Communications has spent about $1.2 billion to obtain controlling interest in top satellite provider Eurosport from French network TF1. Discovery previously owned 20% of the network and now owns 51%.
Some might see this in part as an expansion of Discovery’s strong “reality” programming slate. Others might see it as an effort to get into the live TV event game -- something big U.S. networks increasingly understand due to time-shifted programming and commercial avoidance.
Could the Eurosport brand make a big move to the U.S? That might be a bit far-fetched, considering that many of the European soccer leagues already have deals with U.S. sports channels such as NBCSN (the former NBC Sports Network) and beIN Sport.
Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav underscored the Eurosport brand: “Eurosport is one of the strongest, most dynamic sports platforms in the world.” Eurosport reaches 133 million homes across 54 countries in 20 languages. No slouch.
U.S. sports networks have been hampered by complaints from pay TV providers stemming from escalating per-subscriber fees. That’s no concern to Discovery at the moment.
This issue didn’t dissuade 21st Century Fox from revamping one of its somewhat neglected sports channels to launch the broader-reaching Fox Sports 1 as a possible competitor to ESPN. Fox Sports 1 premiered in August and looks to hang around for a long time.
Fast-forward to the NFL and its Thursday night football games that have had an eroding ratings effect on broadcast networks’ programming.
The NFL now wants to sell a Thursday night package to a broadcast or cable network while perhaps simulcasting the games on its own NFL Network.
Think NBC or ABC wouldn’t like a stronger, proven programming block mid-week? Sports-programming-wise, more networks and big programming will press to get into -- and change -- the game.