By Martin Ross
The Lagardère Sports agency has concluded an agreement with the International Handball Federation for worldwide broadcast distribution rights to the men’s and women’s World Championships from 2019 to 2025, a contract originally awarded to rival MP & Silva.
The IHF last month terminated its €150-million ($176.5-million) agreement with the financially-stricken MP & Silva and entered into negotiations with Lagardère Sports, which has secured the exclusive media distribution rights as well as the rights to produce the broadcast signal.
The agency will also work with the federation to “manage all content creation and distribution that includes highlights and feature programming designed to increase fan engagement and reach as well as exploring new distribution formats such as social media.”
A long-term contract with MP & Silva was ripped up given the financial difficulties that have led to the decimation of the agency’s rights catalogue and the departure of the majority of the staff amid a lack of support from its Chinese owners Everbright and Baofeng. The company has not yet entered insolvency given a healthy eight-figure sum it has had in the bank, and an administrator is not known to have been appointed.
Today’s news marks a return to selling rights to the IHF’s flagship competitions for Lagardère after its erstwhile Sportfive agency held the rights between 2002 and 2009, before losing out on the rights to UFA Sports during an acrimonious invitation to tender process.
David White, president of media at Lagardère Sports and Entertainment, said today: “We are delighted to extend our long-term relationship with the IHF. We will leverage our global expertise in sports marketing and media distribution to deliver the IHF flagship events to fans in all over the world.”
Hassan Moustafa, the IHF president, added: “Considering the agency’s extensive experience in sport and major events, we are confident that Lagardère Sports will be able to assist in the IHF goals of increasing the attractiveness of our game and continuing to grow handball’s presence across the globe.”
Lagardère had been an early contender for the IHF contract when the original invitation to tender was released 12 months ago, but MP & Silva's offer of SFr173.9 million in rights fees, received in Euros (€150 million), and a SFr23.4-million spend on production, was signed off by the IHF in February.
Rival agency Infront had offered SFr158 million for the rights from 2019 to 2025, and cited a SFr18-million production cost.
Lagardère (and Infront) had only submitted bids for the 2019-21 and 2019-23 cycles and the IHF preferred the longevity of the MP & Silva and Infront offers over three cycles, before making a final decision on which agency to select.
In rights fees alone, Lagardère was understood to have bid SFr73 million and just under SFr110 million for the 2019-21 and 2019-23 cycles, respectively (see table below). The agency proposed to handle the broadcast production in house.
|Bids submitted during IHF's original invitation to tender process|
|Agency||Bid for 2019 to 2021||Bid for 2019 to 2023||Bid for 2019 to 2025|
|Lagardère Sports||SFr73.1m in rights fees + SFr11.6m on production||SFr109.6m in rights fees + SFr17.4m on production||No bid|
|MP & Silva||No bid||No bid||SFr173.9m in rights fees + SFr23.4m on production|
|Infront||SFr70m in rights fees + SFr8m on production||SFr110m in rights fees + SFr12m on production||SFr158m in rights fees + SFr18m on production|
Ahead of its announcement on the media rights last month, the IHF had come under pressure from the DHB, the German handball federation, to take action in order to enable a domestic broadcast rights deal to be agreed for the 2019 men’s World Championships, which will be co-hosted by Germany and Denmark.
The scenario prompted headlines in Germany about the threat of another free-to-air ‘TV blackout’ of the men’s World Championships after German coverage of the last two editions of the men’s tournament (in 2015 and 2017) was affected by a row over the international availability of the satellite signal of ZDF, the German public broadcaster.
The opposition of BeIN Media Group, the international pay-TV broadcaster and rights-holder, to the ZDF signal proved to be an insurmountable obstacle in free-to-air rights negotiations in Germany. This led to coverage of the men’s 2015 and 2017 Championships on pay-TV’s Sky Deutschland and a stream funded by DHB sponsor DKB, the German financial services firm, respectively.
Lagardère Sports follows on from BeIN Media Group as the IHF’s international broadcast rights partner.
BeIN's contract (from 2014 to 2017) was worth a record SFr88 million in rights fees and SFr12 million in production costs, a marked increase on the SFr60 million paid by UFA Sports between 2010 and 2013. BeIN employed the Pitch International agency to sell the IHF rights globally.