2013 may have none of the major international sporting events that dominated this year's calendar, but it is shaping up as a critical time for the UK's leading outside broadcasters as dozens of key contracts come up for tender. These include the array of BBC Sport contracts held by SIS Live for five years since April 2008 when it acquired the broadcaster's OB division for £19.3 million. Contracts include those for the London Marathon, Wimbledon, the RBS 6 Nations Rugby (for which SIS supplies trucks and crew for home and away matches), flagship BBC 1 Saturday night football programme Match of the Day, the Open golf championship and the Grand National. Reporting to a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee in 2010, the then Director of London 2012, Roger Mosey, explained: “Part of the reason for the SIS deal was to guarantee that we do have the right number of OBs available for major events like London 2012. Whether the market liberalises after that is unknown.” Quizzed in the same session, former BBC Director General Mark Thompson said: “Part of the sale was a multi-year contract which is a bulk contract with SIS which guarantees that the BBC will get a big discount on SIS's overall charges... and we are guaranteed a significant discount on their normal rate card and we also believe we are achieving a good discount against the market.” With so many events up for grabs now, SIS is likely to retain a portion of them, but rivals including NEP Visions, CTV, Arena and Telegenic can also expect to be beneficiaries of this new round of procurement. A new Vision The entrance of BT Vision into the sports market also has OB firms competing for business. Its main contract is for three-year Premier League coverage (38 matches a year), which begins next autumn and which cost the telco £246 million (€303 million) per season. It has also acquired Premiership rugby rights along with rights to matches involving English clubs in European competitions in a four-year deal worth £152 million (although whether the Premiership rugby clubs can grant the rights to European games is disputed). BT hopes to launch at least one dedicated sports channel off the back of that, is believed to be on the hunt for further sports rights, and is shortlisting bidders for a production contract reportedly worth up to £130 million. ITV Sport, IMG Worldwide, All3Media, North One and Sunset + Vine are in the frame and will make the final decision on the outside broadcast supplier. Then there's the matter of tying-up OB provision for Sochi, host of the Winter Olympics in February 2014; the Glasgow-based Commonwealth Games where OB providers who worked for OBS during London 2012 can expect to capitalise; the FIFA World Cup 2014 and even the Rugby World Cup 2015, which will be hosted in England. If Alfacam fails to resurrect itself from more than €50 million of debt, then the field for host and unilateral broadcast of these major international events, which the Belgian outside broadcaster dominated, will be thrown wide open. - Adrian Pennington
2013 may have none of the major international sporting events that dominated this year's calendar, but it is shaping up as a critical time for the UK's leading outside broadcasters as dozens of key contracts come up for tender.