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Now TV wins Euro 2008 exclusive rights in $400m deal

JeffreyTam

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pay-television service provider Now TV, a unit of PCCW (0008), has dealt another blow to rival i-Cable Communications (1097) by securing an exclusive license to broadcast the European Championship in 2008.

Market sources said PCCW paid about HK$400 million for the deal.

Euro 2008, beginning in June that year, includes 31 matches and is organized by Uefa, Europe's football governing body.

The Euro Championship is regarded by soccer fans as the second most popular football contest after the World Cup. The tournament is held once every four years.

According to a statement issued by Uefa, Now TV's Internet Protocol TV operation makes its a cutting-edge broadcaster internationally. This is the first time Uefa has "entered into negotiations with broadcasters for the distribution of Uefa Euro 2008 broadcast rights in certain territories outside Europe," the football body said.

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Losing the rights to show Euro matches will worsen the outlook for i-Cable as the company also failed earlier to retain broadcasting rights for English Premier League games, which are the mainstays of its sports channel, generating the second-highest advertising revenue among its many channels.

Now TV won the license to broadcast EPL games for an estimated HK$1.56 billion.

Shares of i-Cable fell 9.14 percent to close at HK$1.49 per share November 16, after tumbling for two consecutive days, once news emerged that it lost the rights to show EPL games. But Cable TV has said it can attract subscribers with new programming, although it is likely to lose thousands of subscribers.

Winning the Euro rights appears to show Now TV's determination to become the No1 pay-TV provider in the city on a subscriber basis by end-2007.

PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar- kai will "definitely seek to strengthen the operations of Now TV," once he resumes chairmanship of the telco, an analyst from a European investment bank said. "It is the most successful brand PCCW has established under Li's leadership."

Li spent HK$3.31 million Tuesday to strengthen his shareholding in PCCW for the third time since minority shareholders of his Singapore-listed Pacific Century Regional Developments rejected the proposed sale of a 22.65 percent stake to a consortium brought together by dealmaker Francis Leung Pak-to.


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