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13 Sep 2017

Short turnaround for IHF international rights bids

By Martin Ross

Bidders in the International Handball Federation’s global media rights tender must lodge their offers by 30 September, the sport’s world body has announced.

The IHF has sent invitations to “potential buyers” of the next rights contract, which includes the men’s and women’s World Championships in both 2019 and 2021.

BeIN Media Group, the international pay-TV broadcaster, is the IHF’s current worldwide rights-holder in a four-year contract that expires at the end of the year and is worth a record SFr88 million ($91.3 million) in rights fees and SFr12 million in production costs.

Announcing the start of the tender process, the IHF said that, in “agreement with its current TV partner BeIN Sports,” it is proposing the tender process for the buyout of the global media rights.

The invitation to tender includes the full broadcast production of the men’s and women’s World Championships and “additional production obligations.” The IHF has stressed that it will not be liable for any production costs, including any associated with the federation’s online streaming platform.

Following the submission of offers on 30 September, the IHF is to review the bids at its Council meeting on 13 November.

It is understood that interested parties can submit bids for the rights covering a period up to 2021, 2023 or 2025.

In the past, the IHF has typically waited until very close to the end of the current contract before awarding the rights from the following year onwards.

BeIN’s agreement represented a marked increase on the estimated SFr60 million paid by the UFA Sports agency between 2010 and 2013.

The European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of mainly public-service broadcasters, recently expressed its interest in handball rights.

Stefan Kürten, director of EBU Sport, said: “I would like to get the team sports back. It hurts me to see handball on a streaming platform of a financial institution [DKB, the German bank, showed live coverage of Germany's games at the men’s 2017 World Championships]. We will discuss with the members that we will become active in that respect. We consider handball to be a sports product that has to be on free-to-air TV.”

A rights agreement with the EBU would certainly solve the contentious issue of the German market for the IHF, where DKB stepped in at the last minute amid a long-running satellite overspill dispute between BeIN and public-service broadcasters ARD and ZDF.

BeIN and Pitch International, the agency appointed by the broadcaster to exclusively distribute the rights on its behalf, adopted a tough stance over the issue, as the unencrypted ZDF signal received via the Astra and Hot Bird satellites allowed viewers outside Germany to watch the German-language transmission.

Historical timeline of IHF's worldwide media rights-holders
BeIN Media Group 2014 to 2017 
UFA Sports  2010 to 2013 
Sportfive (now Lagardère Sports)2006 to 2009 
2002 to 2005 
Sport+ (one of entities merged in 2001 to create Sportfive) N/A 
Source: Sportcal

Speaking in July, IHF president Hassan Moustafa flagged up his hope that the federation’s next international rights partner is “open” to talks with free-to-air broadcasters in Germany.

This stance has been echoed in the federation’s approach as it goes to market, stressing to prospective bidders that it expects the largest possible international television audience for its events.   

A priority has been placed on the successful bidder ensuring free-to-air coverage in host countries and key handball territories including Germany, France, Spain, Croatia, Serbia, Poland, the Nordic countries, Russia and Brazil.

The IHF is also seeking to improve its distribution in developing handball markets such as China, Japan, the UK and USA.

The distribution of the IHF’s rights by BeIN and Pitch has led to a mixture of pay-TV and free-to-air deals in various European markets.

This year’s men’s World Championships were broadcast in full on BeIN Sports’ subscription channels in the host country of France, although free-to-air broadcaster TF1 offered coverage from the quarter-finals onwards.

BeIN’s channels in Spain and Turkey also broadcast the championships.

The tournament did generate impressive viewing figures in some markets, including Norway, where the final attracted commercial broadcaster TV2’s biggest-ever handball audience (1.63 million and a 82.3-per-cent viewing share).

Free-to-air coverage of the men's 2018 European Championships is assured in Germany through ARD and ZDF’s agreement with the Infront Sports & Media agency.

Interested parties seeking more information on the IHF tender have been asked to contact Luc Weber (luc [(dot)] weber [(at)] ihf [(dot)] info) from the Basel-based international federation’s marketing department.