The chief executive of Discovery has held talks with potential partners about launching joint bids for premium sports such as the Premier League TV rights.
The owner of the Discovery factual channel, the new majority shareholder in Eurosport, is aggressively eyeing the UK market, its biggest outside the US, including bidding for Richard Desmond’s Channel 5.
David Zaslav, chief executive of the US cable giant, kept his cards close to his chest on the Channel 5 sale process, where Discovery is considered to be a frontrunner among buyers offering much less than Desmond’s lofty £700m-plus target.
Zaslav was more open about the potential for Discovery to enter the next three-year Premier League TV rights deal, which is expected to start later this year, as part of a strategy to boost Eurosport in the 55 markets it broadcasts.
“Eurosport is a bigger platform than ESPN on cable in the US and it reaches more people,” he said, speaking at the FT Digital Media conference in London on Thursday. “The question is what we do about that. If we look at big sports rights will be careful about it, we are going to be thoughtful about it.”
The idea of a potential joint bid opens up an intriguing range of possibilities, not least of which could be the potential to join forces with Virgin Media to snatch the TV rights.
Another option could be to partner with BSkyB, which is desperate to see off direct rival BT in the next football rights auction, with whom Discovery already has a strong commercial relationship.