DirecTV’s new structure will focus on sports

Chris Forrester

North America is very different from Europe in its taste for sport. Europe loves soccer, and while North America also has soccer, it is a minority sport for fans and TV compared to football (professional and college), baseball, basketball, NASCAR and golf – in no particular order. Hence John Malone’s decision to see his revamped DirecTV focus on sport should come as no surprise.

Liberty Media owns 54% of DirecTV, and will roll its Liberty Entertainment interests into a new business (also to be initially called Liberty Ent.) which will contain Liberty’s important regional sports networks, each of them rich with local sports, as well as its Game Show Network (35% owned with Sony) and the FUN network. At the end of the exercise this bundle of assets will be merged with DirecTV – and renamed DirecTV. Confusing? This is quite normal, given that we’re dealing with one of Malone’s frequently complicated restructurings.

Chase Carey, CEO at DirecTV, said the new package allows DirecTV to make a bigger push into sports. ““Given our focus on sports, the importance of sports for us, we really do believe and are excited about the opportunity to work with them and build that business,” Carey said, adding that GSN also presents “tremendous upside.”

The position at the end of the day, however, will see Malone’s voting interest in the new security drop from today’s 33% to 24% of the new business. Analysts expect the financial manoeuvres to wrap by Q4 this year.

Outside of this deal there’s still Malone’s other entertainment business: Liberty Starz (as it will be called) with Starz, a 37% stake in Wild Blue, PicksPal and Fan.