Discovery channels to remain on Sky platform

Discovery Communications’ channels are to remain on the Sky platform, the broadcaster has confirmed tonight.

The broadcaster released the following statement through their social media channels.

This means that Sky’s customers in the UK can continue to enjoy Eurosport’s portfolio of content, including the British Superbikes and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

From Discovery’s perspective, the move to release information into the public domain about potential issues with Sky worked wonders. It increased publicity about their channels over the week long period, which some may not have already been aware of as well as maybe even bringing new viewers towards their portfolio.

We do not know where exactly Sky and Discovery have met in the middle. If Sky have had to pay more than what they wanted to Discovery, it is possible that they will pass the additional cost back onto the viewer.

However, Sky’s CEO in the UK and Ireland Stephen van Rooyen said: “The deal has been concluded on the right terms after Discovery accepted the proposal we gave them over a week ago. This is a good outcome for Sky customers.” With that in mind, it is unclear who actually won in the past week from a financial point of view.

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Sky: Discovery “asked the Sky Group to pay close to £1bn for their portfolio of channels”

Discovery Communications asked that Sky paid close to £1 billion pounds for their channels, Sky have revealed tonight.

In a statement on their website, Sky defended the move to reject Discovery’s request, which hit the public spotlight on Wednesday evening. As it stands right now, Discovery’s channels, including Eurosport and Quest TV will be pulled by Discovery from Sky’s platforms in the UK and Germany on February 1st. The move means that Sky’s viewers in the UK will be without live coverage of series such as the World Touring Car Championship and the British Superbikes championship.

The dispute between Discovery and Sky has played out over social media since Wednesday. Discovery have launched a major social media campaign through the #KeepDiscovery hash tag. Stars from the world of snooker, cycling and motor bikes have been using the hash tag to drive media attention to the issue.

Following a social media onslaught, Sky have retaliated this evening (Friday 27th February). Sky say that they have “offered hundreds of millions of pounds to Discovery, a $12bn American business, but that wasn’t enough. [Discovery] asked the Sky Group to pay close to £1bn for their portfolio of channels, many of which are in decline.” Sky says that they have never left the negotiating table, also noting that negotiations have been ongoing for over a year until this point. No scale of time is mentioned in Sky’s statement.

Sky’s statement continued: “Sky doesn’t boot channels off our platform. If Discovery don’t want their channels to disappear, as their public campaign suggests, they could have made arrangement to stay on Sky, including free to air with advertising funding or with their own subscription, but they’ve chosen not to do so.”

Both Sky and Discovery are known for paying significant sums of money for sporting contracts: Sky for the Premier League and Discovery for the Olympics moving forward. The portrayal so far makes out that Discovery is the underdog. Sky is part of the Murdoch empire, whilst Discovery is part of John Malone’s empire. Both pay big bucks.

Discovery Communications recorded a turnover of $6.394 billion (£5 billion) for the 12 months to the end of December 2015, which compares with Sky’s £9.9 billion revenue for the 12 months to the end of June 2016. Therefore, Discovery gets half the revenue around half the turnover of Sky. I would question whether every penny that Sky gives to Discovery would go back into programming (my suspicion is that it would not).

I do hope Discovery’s channels stay on Sky. As a motor racing fan, I want to continue to enjoying the likes of touring cars, superbikes and of course the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is easy to throw Sky under the bus for this, but as with every story, I get the impression that there are two sides to the story. If Discovery’s channels leave Sky, I certainly do not see people’s TV bills decreasing. On the other hand, if the channels stay on Sky there is a good chance of prices increasing further, which is not good news for the consumer.

The fact that we have reached this stage suggests that no one party is at fault and that, instead, both sides have equal blame to take…

Update on January 27th at 21:40 – Discovery have denied Sky’s £1 billion pound statement, claiming that the broadcaster is relying on ‘alternative facts’.

Discovery threatens to pull channels, including Eurosport, from Sky’s platform

Original Article – January 25th at 20:00 – Discovery Networks portfolio of channels, including the Eurosport arm, is set to disappear from Sky’s UK platform next week if a new carriage deal is not reached. As the current agreement only runs until January 31st, Discovery are free to pull their channels from Sky any time from February 1st onwards.

In a press release issued tonight, Discovery said that Sky’s strategy is “limiting customer choice and hurting independent broadcasters.” The dispute for Discovery is that Sky are paying Discovery less than what they were ten years ago, despite Sky’s customers paying progressively more for watching their content, as this website has demonstrated.

Susanna Dinnage, the Managing Director for Discovery Networks UK and Ireland, said: “We are proud to be an independent network of channels that works hard to bring real-world first class channels and programmes to viewers in the UK for nearly 30 years, offering quality and variety to pay television. We believe Sky is using what we consider to be its dominant market position to further its own commercial interest over those of viewers and independent broadcasters. The vitality of independent broadcasters like Discovery and plurality in TV is under threat.”

If the Eurosport channels are pulled from Sky, it means that Sky viewers in the UK will not have access to the British and World Superbikes, as well as the World Touring Car Championship. Longer term, it means that a large proportion of viewers may not have access to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Quest TV is also affected. As noted earlier this month, Discovery Communications has a working relationship with John Malone’s Liberty Global. Malone’s portfolio includes Liberty Media, which of course will soon be renamed the Formula One Group.

This will be one to watch closely in the forthcoming days. My suspicion is that this will be resolved quickly, but there is a possibility that will not happen. This scenario has happened before; readers may remember when Sky1 and a host of other Sky channels were removed from the Virgin Media platform for 18 months is a similar carriage dispute.

Update on January 25th at 20:35 – ITV News’ Consumer Editor Chris Choi says that Sky will be dropping Discovery’s portfolio from next Tuesday.

Update on January 25th at 21:30 – Sky’s statement, via the Telegraph website: “Despite our best efforts to reach a sensible agreement, we, like many other platforms and broadcasters across Europe, have found the price expectations for the Discovery portfolio to be completely unrealistic. Discovery’s portfolio of channels includes many which are linear-only where viewing is falling.”

The statement continued, “Sky has a strong track record of understanding the value of the content we acquire on behalf of our customers, and as a result we’ve taken the decision not to renew this contract on the terms offered. We have been overpaying Discovery for years and are not going to anymore. We will now move to redeploy the same amount of money into content we know our customers value.”

Update on January 26th at 20:30 – No further update beyond what was reported yesterday, with a “wait and see” approach being taken by stakeholders in the British Superbikes series. A #KeepDiscovery campaign is in full flow on social media, bike stars and pundits such as former MotoGP commentator for Eurosport Toby Moody and current British Superbikes presenter Matt Roberts getting behind the cause.

I should note that the issue does not just affect the UK: Discovery’s deal with Sky affects Germany as well, so there are wider ramifications for both corporations if the issue is not resolved.

Update on January 27th at 21:15 – Follow-up story now online here.

Liberty Media Corporation completes acquisition of Formula 1

Liberty Media Corporation have completed the acquisition of Formula 1; it has been confirmed this evening. As you have probably already read, Bernie Ecclestone is now in the position of ‘Chairman Emeritus’.

The relevant quotations below are from the key players. I do not normally regurgitate press releases, but this has far-reaching implications across Formula 1 and beyond that will no doubt play out over the next year, including the motor sport broadcasting circle.

Greg Maffei, President and CEO of Liberty Media Corporation, commented: “There is an enormous opportunity to grow the sport, and we have every confidence that Chase, with his abilities and experience, is the right person to achieve this.”

> September 2016: The formula for tomorrow
> January 2017: A high level overview of who owns what in the motor sport landscape

Chase Carey, Chairman and CEO of F1, said: “I am excited to be taking on the additional role of CEO. F1 has huge potential with multiple untapped opportunities. I have enjoyed hearing from the fans, teams, FIA, promoters and sponsors on their ideas and hopes for the sport. We will work with all of these partners to enhance the racing experience and add new dimensions to the sport and we look forward to sharing these plans overtime.”

Bernie Ecclestone, Chairman Emeritus of F1, added: “I’m proud of the business that I built over the last 40 years and all that I have achieved with Formula 1, and would like to thank all of the promoters, teams, sponsors and television companies that I have worked with. I’m very pleased that the business has been acquired by Liberty and that it intends to invest in the future of F1. I am sure that Chase will execute his role in a way that will benefit the sport.”

If it has not done so already, the hard work for Liberty Media starts now. The next days, weeks and months ahead will be fascinating – on the track, and off it.

Update at 21:50 on January 23rd: Ross Brawn has been appointed Managing Director, Motor Sports and Sean Bratches as Managing Director, Commercial Operations. Bratches is an unfamiliar name to readers, but to quote the press release, Bratches was with ESPN for 27 years and, on the interactivity side was “responsible for the distribution of related HDTV, broadband, video-on-demand, subscription video-on-demand, interactive television, pay-per-view, Spanish-language, and sports syndication products.”

Carey said: “I am thrilled Sean is joining Formula 1. Sean was a driving force in building ESPN into one of the world’s leading sports franchises. His expertise and experience in sales, marketing, digital media, and distribution will be invaluable as we grow Formula 1.”

Bratches added: “I’m very excited to be joining Formula 1 and contribute to the continued growth of this extraordinary global brand and sport. Formula 1 is one of few truly global tier one sports, and I am encouraged by the manifold opportunities to materially grow the business, work closely with current and future sponsors, race circuits, television rights holders as well as create next generation digital and on-site race experiences to best serve the Formula 1 fans.”

In conversation with Louise Goodman (part two)

Our journey down memory lane continues with former ITV F1 pit lane reporter Louise Goodman (@LouGoodmanMedia). In part one (located here), we looked at Louise’s early career in motor sport.

In the second and final part, we chat about her ITV F1 highlights, ITV’s exit from the sport and her BTCC duties with Steve Rider.

F1B: So you were with the ITV F1 team from the start right until the very end. Unfortunately, you had some of the more; let us say ‘boring’ years with Schumacher winning.

LG: Well it was ironic actually that in our final race we finally got a British champion. Inevitably, a sport becomes more popular when you’re doing well in it, whatever the sport is. We’d gone through those years of Schumacher dominating, that’s not to take anything away from Michael; the sport became very popular in Germany those days. It was somewhat frustrating, but I don’t think that stopped us from making good programmes. We still had British drivers there to get involved with, such as Coulthard and Button.

F1B: When you found out that the BBC were taking over, just before Malaysia 2008, was it a surprise, was it a shock?

LG: It was a big surprise. We didn’t lose the rights, ITV relinquished the rights. We had just arrived for race two of that season, it came as a big shock to everybody. I remember Gerard Lane, who was our Series Editor, was a bit late arriving outside the hotel to leave for the circuit that morning. When he came down, he had a shell-shocked look on his face. He explained the situation and we was like “you’re kidding”? ITV had been renegotiating certain elements of that year’s contract whilst we were in Australia; there had been a few little bits to sort out.

F1B: So you knew things were going on behind the scenes?

LG: No, this was totally different. There were a few things that hadn’t been crossed and dotted in the new contract that needed to be ironed out. We were in the process of starting a new relationship, and then suddenly the brakes were on. None of us had any warning whatsoever. I won’t go into why, the reasons why it happened are well documented elsewhere, but it came to as a massive shock to all of us. I’m sure it wasn’t a decision that ITV took lightly and had circumstances been different I’m sure they would have kept Formula 1, the football, and various other sports as well. Suddenly, we were all out of a job.

F1B: I guess if you were to take 2008, your last interview in the pouring pit lane of Brazil, Hamilton winning the title, there’s not a better way of going out.

LG: I couldn’t dictate the outcome of the result, but we knew that we had a very good chance of ending our run with a British champion going into the weekend. If it did happen, I was determined that I was going to get the first proper interview with him. It was a memorable weekend for all sorts of reasons. It was the end of not only my ITV career but also my full-time Formula 1 career; I still go to some of the Grand Prix in other capacity. Whilst I was happy to move on and do different things, a huge chunk of my life was sort of ending. It was a big change.

2008-brazilian-gp-hamilton
In amongst a huge media melee, Louise Goodman grabs the first words with Lewis Hamilton following the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.

LG: The weekend was ITV at its best. I was surrounded by other broadcasters; I remember standing in the little tunnel going through into the pit lane. I’d left the area I’d been watching the race in, and all the guys were going “such a shame Lewis hasn’t won” and I’m going “it’s not over yet!” Broadcasters all around the world were proclaiming Felipe Massa as world champion, and I could hear James [Allen] and Martin [Brundle] in my ears, absolutely spot on, correctly reading the race and the circumstances. It was a great piece of broadcasting and analysis on their part. Then the bun fight ensued to try to get hold of Lewis in the pouring rain.

F1B: The pictures told the story.

LG: Sometimes, you want an interview to be framed beautifully, but actually sometimes, the pictures do tell the story. I managed to fight my way through, door stepping McLaren with a couple of other broadcasters. A few were waiting where they assumed Lewis was going, but I couldn’t run the risk of someone else diving in. The interviews are much more a prescribed set of circumstances now, so you know that the drivers’ are going to be brought to you, you know the team are going to dictate where he goes. It was a lot more of a free-for-all back in those days. I needed to make sure that I’d got that interview. We couldn’t go off air before we had it, our audience had to have that interview. He’s our world champion, and we’re damn well having him first!

F1B: On the other end of the spectrum, you have USA 2005, which for the viewer watching at home was a shambles.

LG: Shambles, your words not mine! (laughs) A tricky event, but from a broadcasting perspective it was a blinding event to work on. It was the epitome of live television. As we went on-air, we ripped up the running order because we didn’t know what was going to happen. All of the features that we’d been carefully filming and putting together over the previous two days went out the window. The story had changed massively and we had to reflect that story, but we still didn’t know which direction the story was going to go in. We didn’t know whether there was going to be a race, how cars were going to be racing, what’s going to happen. The buzz of being involved in that was just phenomenal. If you look at the statistics for that event. Normally you get the hard-core audience turn on for the pre-show. The figures will reach a peak for the start of the race, then they’ll dip a little bit and then up again for the end of the race. But here, they just kept climbing and climbing and climbing throughout that entire broadcast. It was some story, it wasn’t exactly a good story but it was one heck of a story.

F1B: It was a story told beautifully well, and you guys did well to fill the time!

LG: Well I’d like to think that we were reflecting and telling the story from all different angles. We were out in the grandstands talking to the fans. There was nothing going on the track so Ted and I were desperately trying to come up with input to help the commentators. Had there been a dog at turn three, I think it would have got on air that day! I look back on that race as “oh my god, that dreadful race”, the sport was not showing itself in the best light, but from a live broadcast perspective and from an ITV production perspective, it was a blinding bit of telly. The feeling of being involved in that was amazing, the adrenaline rush was incredible.

F1B: Moving back to the 2009 switch to the BBC, were you tempted to switch over at all?

LG: I had conversations with the guys at the Beeb, but to be quite blunt they didn’t offer me the job. It’s inevitable; you see it every time there’s a change of broadcasters. You can’t just take the last channel’s team and flip them all over onto your new team, although if you look at the Channel 4 team there’s a lot of crossover there. BBC wanted to go down a different route. I’m not sure whether Ted was trying to be kind but he said “they’re taking me because I’m less visible than you,” that’s Ted being very sweet! From my perspective, I knew Lee. I was more concerned about the potential for having, being passionate for the cause for female sports broadcasters, someone there for the right reasons. I was very glad that the BBC employed Lee [McKenzie]. Lee had worked with us at ITV, she’d done the GP2, she knew her stuff, she was a proper broadcaster, and she wasn’t being employed because she looked right. She was a proper broadcaster being employed because a) she’s going to do a good job and b) she knew what she was talking about. I knew that I was leaving it in safe hands, that sounds a bit condescending but I was very happy to pass the microphone over to somebody who was going to pick it up and run with it.

2005-usa-gp-mark-webber
Louise Goodman and Mark Webber try to make sense of the 2005 United States Grand Prix.

F1B: So, you moved onto touring cars with Steve Rider, you’ve been doing that for nearly a decade now. How’s that going?

LG: This might sound daft and people have said to me “you must miss the F1”, but I was doing it a long time. I was quite happy to have a fresh challenge in life. From a broadcasting perspective, the role I had in Formula 1 was somewhat limited. I do a lot more for the touring car programme, so externally you might think, “it’s not Formula 1” but from a personal perspective, I’d been doing that for years and been to all of those places. It’s an easier environment to work in from a broadcasting perspective; we’re a bigger fish in a much smaller pond. It’s much easier to get the drivers attention and to engage with the drivers. They have much more time to interact with us and they want to be on television. Steve is the lead presenter, but there have been occasions where I’ve presented the show when he’s been away. That’s a whole new challenge. It’s not just the duration as I’m working the same duration usually anyway, but it’s the pressure of being that lead presenter, there’s a hell of a lot going on. The likes of Steve Rider make it look so easy! There’s a lot of paddling going on, Steve glides along like a swan on top. I know what he has to contend with, live broadcasting is potentially volatile. It’s quite nerve wracking doing that job, you’re having to listen to five different people saying different things, and you have to make sure you’re spot on with timings. It’s been great to have the opportunity to do that, I now have the opportunity to do grid walks. I’m free forming for seven or eight minutes of television, that’s a long time to be talking.

F1B: Compared to the 30 seconds in Melbourne!

LG: Yeah, absolutely! Yes, that would be a quick chat to one driver. Martin was the initiator of the grid walk when Neil Duncanson said to him about doing something different for the [1997] British Grand Prix, and now there is no motor sport programme that doesn’t have a grid walk. I was a little bit concerned, Martin’s so good at this, I don’t want to be copying what Martin does, so I wanted to make sure I was doing it right, but doing it my own way. Again, it’s a volatile situation, the driver might not be there, you have to start elsewhere, you’ve suddenly got to find someone else to talk to, you might end up looking like a numpty without proper planning!

F1B: Just to finish off with then, do you have any overriding memories or thoughts of your broadcasting career.

LG: The memories that stick with me are the memorable interviews, on a personal level, speaking to Eddie Irvine when he won his first Grand Prix, speaking to Rubens Barrichello when he won his first race. I always said to EJ when I left to go to ITV that I wanted the first interview when Jordan won their first race! It was the drivers whom I had a relationship with, the drivers I knew and worked with when I was a press officer. It’s great when you manage to get information out of a driver that no one else has, such as the bad news for Damon and Arrows in Hungary, and then going out on a high with that final interview with Lewis. Funnily enough one of the interviews I do remember the most was an interview I did with Jean Alesi, again a driver I worked with in F3000, we went down to his house. It ended up being one of the longest features that ITV ever did; we ran it over two different shows at the French Grand Prix. We were in his house, he was cooking dinner, he was singing with us. I was very proud and pleased with that one; Steve Aldous brilliantly put it together.

My thanks go to Louise Goodman for spending the time with me on the above interview.