Former US exec says big-time sport a sound TV investment

Fri Feb 13, 2015 9:00am EST
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - While analysts debate the fiscal sense of Sky TV paying more than $4 billion to broadcast live English Premier League matches, former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson advises them not to fret.

The retired executive speaks from personal experience when he predicts a happy outcome despite the amount spent.

"In the final analysis SKY and BT are probably going to be of greater value...because they have retained these rights," Pilson told Reuters in a telephone interview.       

"I experienced that at CBS when we lost the NFL rights."

Pilson ruefully recalled losing the National Football League rights in 1993 to fledgling Fox Broadcasting Company, whose parent, Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, happens to own 39 percent of Sky.

CBS, who had televised NFL games for 38 years, were offering the NFL $250 million a year to renew their deal and network management balked at NFL's demand for $290 million.

Fox, which at that time did not even have a sports division, stepped in and offered $390 million a year and were awarded the four-year package of games.

"If I had won that argument I’d probably still be at CBS," said Pilson, now head of a sports consulting company whose clients have included the International Olympic Committee, NASCAR and the Kentucky Derby.   Continued...

Fans react as they watch the 2010 World Cup soccer match between the U.S. and England via television from South Africa, at Bugsy's Sports Bar in Alexandria, Virginia, in this file photo taken on June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst