ESPN plays down Australian UEFA Champions League rights loss to rivals BeIn Sport

ESPN logoUS Sports broadcaster ESPN has reaffirmed its commitment to its content offering in Australia despite losing the rights to its flagship soccer competition, the UEFA Champions League.

Bosses at the channel confirmed they had hoped to retain the exclusive rights and had entered a “very competitive bid”, but missed out earlier this month to Al Jazeera-owned BeIN Sport.

The loss of Europe’s premier club football competition leaves ESPN with a predominately American-sports line-up for Australian viewers, but Haydn Arndt, general manager at ESPN APAC, said they continue to grow the audience, particularly in the 18 to 34 demographic.

“ESPN’s content offering in Australia continues to deliver Aussie sports fans the best of international sport,” Mr Arndt added.

“We have a sustained commitment and partnership with the NBA, NFL and MLB in the market and we continue to invest in additional rights for these sports, delivering Aussie sports fans more of the sports they want to see.

“We will continue to look at additional content that will add to the growth in audience and the engagement that we have seen in recent years.”

On Friday, SBS announced a three year deal with Pay-TV broadcaster BeIN Sport to exclusively hold free-to-air rights for the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League.

The channel previously had a similar deal with ESPN. A spokesperson at SBS said they had been “committed” to pursuing the free-to-air-rights for its audience after the pay-TV deal had been struck, adding: “We are very pleased with the outcome and partnership with BeIN Sport.”

SBS would not comment on any specifics of the contract with BeIN Sport, but said: “International sport is at the heart of SBS so we continue to invest our modest resources, where we can, into content which delivers on the SBS Charter and football, which unites our diverse communities.”

Kevin Bradford

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