Premier League Signs Four-Year Agreement for Global Radio Rights

Fans of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool living outside of Europe will be able to listen to live matches in three languages after the Premier League signed a four-year radio agreement with UTV Media Plc’s Talksport unit.

The 20-team league is the richest and most popular domestic competition in world soccer. Its global television sales are worth a record 1.4 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) over three years with live matches shown in more than 200 countries.

Scott Taunton, Talksport’s chief executive officer, said it will cost 800,000 pounds to set up radio broadcasts of all 380 games a season in Mandarin, Spanish and English. He forecast a 1 million-pound loss for the first year. Neither Talksport nor the Premier League disclosed financial terms of the agreement, which starts with the 2012-13 season.

“The more we looked into the research available it became obvious that there’s a compelling proposition outside of the U.K.,” Staunton said in a telephone interview. “We will make access to commentary ubiquitous: whether on radio or online, people will be able to find the commentaries easily. It’s our intention to ensure all of our broadcasts are free.”

Since Belfast-based UTV acquired Talksport in 2005, revenue at the radio station has almost doubled to 31.5 million pounds. In March it said Talksport’s operating profit for fiscal 2011 was 7.4 million pounds.

Phil Lines, who was responsible for selling the Premier League’s last international broadcast rights, said Talksport “could make a bit of money” because of the league’s popularity.

“They’re already in the radio business so it’s a natural expansion or them,” Lines, who now works in the sports unit of Lagardere SCA, said.

Key Market

Taunton said Southeast Asia is expected to be a key market for the company and it was possible commentary in Thai, Malay and Indonesian may follow.

“In countries like Indonesia more fans claim to be fans of the Premier League than in the U.K.,” he said, adding the company is seeking to widen Talksport’s brand outside of the Britain, where it provides game coverage and sports debate.

Most Premier League games are available worldwide only on pay television. Taunton’s company is looking to reach fans that don’t have access to the premium channels.

“We are planning in the coming days and weeks to meet internationally with a number of broadcasters and have the basis of proposition for them already,” he said.

The company is taking a flexible approach, he said. Options include the direct sale of game broadcasts to radio stations, websites and bookmakers. Rights may also be given to radio stations free of charge in return for advertising Talksport’s online commentary services. It’s also looking to sell global naming rights to potential sponsors like “a Coke, a Pepsi, or a Nike,” Taunton said.

The company is also seeking to acquire rights to overseas rights for Spain’s top soccer league and English soccer’s F.A. Cup as well as international cricket and rugby.

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