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Eleven looks to spice up global sports TV scene

SINGAPORE — Barely two months into its operations, Eleven Sports Network (ESN) — the newest player in global sports television — opened its first international office in Singapore in May to tap the Republic’s huge appetite for “live” European football.

SINGAPORE — Barely two months into its operations, Eleven Sports Network (ESN) — the newest player in global sports television — opened its first international office in Singapore in May to tap the Republic’s huge appetite for “live” European football.

Since then, the London-based network added Belgium and Poland, and will establish a presence in Malaysia in the next two months.

The company also snagged 15 European and South American properties including England’s FA Cup, Italy’s Serie A, French Ligue 1 and the Brazilian league.

And yesterday, ESN group managing director Danny Menken announced its first “live” broadcast here: The traditional curtain raiser to the English football season, the FA Community Shield, on Singtel Channel 109 tomorrow.

The deal with the Singapore telco is non-exclusive because Menken said “the era of exclusive sports channels and sports properties per pay-TV operator has gone”.

“In the past, pay-TV operators have tried to move their subscribers from analogue to digital and get subscribers from other operators with exclusive sports rights and channels,” said the Dutchman.

“This (analogue to digital migration) has stabilised and we now have to offer a wide distribution on all platforms to all operators and that is why we started Eleven Sports Network.”

For all the properties ESN has snagged so far, the most lucrative club football properties, the English Premier League (EPL) and the UEFA Champions League, are noticeably absent from its portfolio.

Those are likely to be included when the next opportunity to bid for them arises, but he raised a question mark over making the EPL available in Singapore through its network.

The cost of watching the EPL has skyrocketed in many territories globally after pay-TV operators battled for exclusive rights to the most popular football league in the world, but in Singapore this has been especially high.

Menken said the price of the commercial rights to the EPL per capita, as he understands it, is the highest in the world and it does not make sense to make a bid for the Singapore market. In 2010, Singtel had reportedly paid close to S$400 million for the EPL rights for three years.

“We believe the price that has been paid for the EPL is far above market value. Against this price, it does not make sense for us to buy it,” he added. “So I don’t think we will have the EPL for Singapore because if I look at the current business dynamics, it does not make sense for us.

“But for other territories, it may be different.”

But Menken is holding out for the rights to the Champions League, which was secured by Eurosport for three years in April, because he said ESN is in Singapore for the long haul.

The ESN chief said: “The current price for the EPL is far too high, but there are still some properties left, which could make sense for us because we are here for the long term.” IAN DE COTTA

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