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Discovery acquires Setanta Sports Asia to bolster Asian sports play

MUMBAI: Discovery Communications is slowly and steadily building its sports business. After acquiring a controlling stake in Eurosport last year, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific (DNAP), a division of Discovery Communications, has acquired Irish sports broadcaster Setanta’s Asia channel Setanta Sports Asia, a premium sports channel specialising in rugby.

Discovery, which has long been regarded as a factual programming company, had entered the sports arena in December 2012 with the acquisition of 20 per cent stake in Eurosport as part of a larger strategic partnership with TF1 Group. Then it upped its stake in the European sportscaster to 51 per cent in May 2014.

Reaching more than 42 million homes across 16 countries, Setanta Sports Asia is one of the fastest-growing sports channels in Asia. It serves passionate fans with some of the best rugby league and union events from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

The acquisition is bolstered by Setanta’s five-year renewal of SANZAR (South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby) rights, including all home international matches, plus Super Rugby – both of which represent some of the most sought-after rugby union properties.

In addition to the SANZAR rights, key programming includes European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, National Rugby League, Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro 12.

“The acquisition of Setanta Sports Asia is an important investment for Discovery as we further build scale and expand our business in Asia. Just over a year ago, Discovery gained a controlling interest in Eurosport – a bold play that took our company into the exciting arena of sports,” said Discovery Networks International president JB Perrette.

“Similar to the strategy we have adopted for Eurosport, we will look to build on the strengths of Setanta and fortify its leadership as a must-have sports channel across Asia.”

Eurosport recently signed a three-year agreement to broadcast the UEFA Champions League in Singapore from the 2015/2016 season.

JB Perrette added, “We will continue our steady investment in premium sports for Asia. The recent investments in the exclusive media rights for Champions League in Singapore on Eurosport, and now Setanta Sports Asia, demonstrate our commitment to building our portfolio and presence in the region. We are also very pleased to have Peter Hutton, who joined us a few months ago as CEO of Eurosport, leading the strategy of our newest global brand. Peter has excelled in the sports media business and his extensive international experience in multiple markets, including Asia, will boost our momentum.”

In total, Setanta Sports Asia airs more than 500 rugby matches per season on HD and SD feeds across the region. The channel’s multi-device player, Setanta Sports Plus, is widely accessible through online, tablets and smartphones.

Owned by Gaiety Investments (60 per cent) and Danu Partners (40 per cent), Setanta Sports has moved out of several markets like Africa and Australia.

In fact, Setanta has had a troubled journey. In UK, it had snaffled the broadcast rights to Indian Premier League’s (IPL) inaugural season before going bust. It shut its channels in the UK in 2009 and the UK in 2010.

In October 2013, Setanta Africa was sold to Fox International Channels (FIC). In August 2014, Setanta sold its Australian channels, Setanta Sports Australia and Setanta Sports Plus, to Al Jazeera Media Network.