Jul 262014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill which will introduce a law banning advertising on pay-television broadcasters, a development which could have implications for the sports rights market in the country.

The law, which will go into effect on January 1, 2015, bans advertising on all subscription channels as well as on channels that can only be viewed with a decoding device. Excluded from the ban are all “national, compulsory, universally accessible” channels and those provided by terrestrial broadcasting.

Earlier this month, NTV Plus commentator Michael Mossakovskii said the ban would have dire consequences for the broadcaster’s coverage of football’s Uefa Champions League. “If there is a ban on advertising on pay-television… (NTV Plus) will not be able to fulfil its contract of showing the Champions League,” Mossakovskii said on social networking website Twitter. “Advertising is part of the coverage.”

NTV Plus, which operates basic-tier and premium pay-television channels as well as a pay-television satellite platform, shows live coverage of at least five matches per week from the Champions League. The broadcaster is about to enter the final year of a three-year rights deal, from 2012-13 to 2014-15, with sister free-to-air channel NTV also showing coverage.

Igor Zotov, a Duma deputy and leader of the marginal Russian Pensioners for Justice party, said the bill is supposed to level the playing field for free-to-air and subscription-based channels, according to the Moscow Times newspaper.