-- News Corp. buys stake in Dutch company to secure local soccer broadcasting rights
-- Deal strengthens company's dominance over European soccer broadcasting
-- Move comes as News Corp. prepares to split in two
LONDON--News Corp. (NWS) on Wednesday acquired a majority stake in the Dutch company that owns the broadcasting rights to the top soccer league in the Netherlands, strengthening the media giant's dominance over European soccer broadcasting.
The company has bought a 51% stake in Eredivisie Media & Marketing CV--which owns the rights to the Eredivisie, the top Dutch division--through its subsidiary FOX International Channels. It bought the stake from Dutch TV production company Endemol and the 18 clubs that make up the division. EMM broadcasts matches on its television platform.
No financial details were disclosed.
The deal sees News Corp. further expand its portfolio of soccer broadcasting rights in Europe, with the rights to three of the world's most popular leagues already in its fold. In June, British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (BSY.LN), in which News Corp. owns 39.1%, agreed to pay 2.28 billion pounds ($3.57 billion) for the exclusive rights for most English Premier League matches for three years, starting from 2013. That is GBP700 million more than the U.K.'s biggest pay-TV operator by revenue paid for the rights in 2009.
BSkyB has enticed millions of customers with its U.K. broadcasting rights to the Premier League, underpinning profits and sales.
In April, News Corp. retained key broadcasting rights for Germany's Bundesliga, through its German pay-TV operator Sky Deutschland AG (SKYD.XE), paying between 225 million euros ($278 million) and EUR275 million a season.
The company also owns the rights to Italy's Serie A via Sky Italia, but doesn't own the rights to Spain's La Liga, whose clubs sell the rights to their matches separately.
While popular in the Netherlands, the Eredivisie doesn't have the same global appeal as the English, Spanish, German or Italian leagues.
The move comes as the media conglomerate prepares to split in two, separating its lucrative entertainment operations from its smaller publishing assets.
The entertainment company will comprise News Corp.'s film business 20th Century Fox, the Fox broadcast network and Fox News Channel. The other company will consist of its publishing assets, including The Wall Street Journal and the Times of London newspapers, along with HarperCollins book publishing and News Corp.'s education business.
News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of this newswire.
At the time of the surprise announcement in June, News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said the new structure will "simplify operations and greater align strategic priorities."
News Corp. is also looking to strengthen its pay-television operations in Australia, with its local unit recently tabling a 1.97 Australian dollar (US$2 billion) bid to buy Consolidation Media Holdings Ltd. (CMJ.AU). The bid includes a 25% stake in pay-TV operator Foxtel, which would double News Corp.'s stake.
The latest developments come in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp.'s British newspaper unit, which led to the closure of the News of the World tabloid last year, the resignation of several senior executives, lawsuits, police investigations, and the abandonment of News Corp.'s bid for full ownership of BSkyB. The bid was News Corp.'s attempt to capitalize on one of its most lucrative properties.
News Corp. is scheduled to publish its financial results for the fourth quarter ended June 30 later Wednesday.
Soccer is growing in popularity around the world, particularly in Asia, the world's growth engine. The English Premier League is the most popular division and is watched in about 650 million households globally, according to the Premier League's 2010/11 season review report.
--Robin van Daalen in Amsterdam contributed to this article.
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