The global sports business headlines of 2017

broadcast rights, disney company and rupert murdoch, SPORTS BUSINESS DEALS, Walt Disney, Rupert Murdoch, InsideSport

The year 2017 may be defined as the YEAR OF SPORTS BUSINESS DEALS with the potential to redefine the ecosystem and commercial landscape for sports. The year has started with the $8 billion deal by Liberty Media to acquire the Formula One business from Bernie Ecclestone. It ended with a much bigger acquisition-merger deal when the Walt Disney Company and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox announced a US$52.4 billion mega-deal that will see the former acquire the latter’s sports and regional business across the globe. chronicles global sports’ top business headlines, which are redefining sports commercial landscape.


The year began with the end of Bernie Ecclestone’s 40-year reign over Formula One as motorsports’ most premium property was acquired by the Liberty Media in a $8 billion deal. Liberty Media’s top executive Chase Carey’s appointment as the F1 supremo spelled the end of the motorsport journey for the 86-year-old Ecclestone.

Also in January, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba inked a reportedly $800 million Olympic sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Council. The neither the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd nor IOC had disclosed the commercials, the deal is slated to be among the biggest ones in the Olympic history.


February witnessed three landmark deals in America’s sports league market. National Basketball Association established its official esports competition – a first for any major league in North America. It also inked the naming rights deal for its Development League, which acquired the new name G League following the Gatorade tie-up.

Major League Soccer club DC United agreed to name its newly-build stadium the Audi Field in one of the highest paid naming rights deal with the German automobile giant.


BT Sport made a successful bid of $1.44 billion to retain European club football’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League’s live broadcast rights. This was an increase of 33% over the commitment BT Sports had made in 2013 for the same property.



April witnessed a major sign on digital players’ emergence in the sport live viewing. Amazon inked a reported $50 million agreement for streaming rights of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games package. The rights were previously held by Twitter.

Chinese electronics giant Hisense signed a deal with the world governing body for football – FIFA – to become an official sponsor of the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. Hisense thus became the first Chinese consumer electronics brand to sponsor the FIFA World Cup and the second Chinese company to join hands with FIFA after Wanda.

However, the deal of the month was $100 million brand endorsement agreement extension between golfer Rory McIlroy and sports brand Nike.


Close on the heels of the big signing with Hisense, FIFA announced another tie-up with another Chinese brand Vivo. The BBK Group smartphone brand became a FIFA sponsor in a confirmed, high value $450 million tie-up. It turned out to be a month of big signings for FIFA. The football governing body announced another commercial association, with Qatar Airways, three weeks later.

Golf’s PGA Tour and FedEx agreed to extend their association for a $650 million contract renewal.

Italian media mogul confirmed an investment of $134 million in a complete takeover of Premier League club Leeds United.

Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic snapped his five-year-old ties with Uniqlo in favour of a brand ambassador, Ad appearances, and a release of a signature line agreement with Lacoste.

The month of May also witnessed many other business deals in sports commercial space. Nitto replaced Barclays as the ATP World Tour’s season-ending Finals title sponsor; Facebook acquired the live streaming deal for games of the Major League Baseball.


June happened to be a month of greater significance for Indian sports sponsorship market. Board of Control for Cricket in India registered a 554% growth in the Indian Premier League title sponsorship rights when incumbent brand Vivo pledged $330 million (₹2,199 crore) in a five-year deal. This also set the stage for bigger gains for the BCCI from IPL.

At a time when McDonald’s had declined further deliveries, International Olympic Committee logged into Intel for a worldwide partnership till 2024.

There were more cricket deals during the month. Sky Sports and BCC bagged the England and Wales Cricket Board’s broadcast rights for $1.4 billion. The deal for the 2020-2024 cycle also includes first-class county tournaments and the eight-team T-20 franchise league.


No commercials. No agreements. However, the month accounted for one of the biggest understandings in the history of Olympic Games. The IOC and bid committees for the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games have reportedly agreed that the LA will officially concede the hosting rights for the 2024 Games to Paris and in turn will qualify as the host city for the 2028 Olympics. The plan had a unanimous support of the IOC members.

By the month end reports emerged that LA has conceded its bid for the 2024 edition and a formal allotment to Paris (2024) and LA (2028) will be ratified at the IOA summit in Lima two months later.

The UFC announced plans to stage its first event in mainland China in November, while the MMA promotion’s main Asian rival, ONE Championship, secured fresh investment from a group of venture capitalists.

The Sky Sports golf channel ran into trouble within three days of its launch as the pay TV broadcaster conceded its US PGA Championship broadcast rights to the BCC.


August was the month of multi-million dollar tie-ups. In Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Scotiabank had agreed on 20-year, $639 million deals for the naming rights of the Air Canada Centre. Scotiabank has committed $32 million per year for the renaming of the arena, for which the previous deal with Air Canada was a $4 million per annum.

Major League Soccer and Adidas agreed to extend their existing apparel deal for six-years for $700 million at approximately $117 million per annum. This is the highest commercial agreement in the 21-year MLS history.

Disney raised its stake in MLB’s pioneering live streaming unit BAMTech with a $1.58 billion investment to acquire additional 42 percent share in the company.


India drew attention of the sports and media world when Star India snatched the Indian Premier League broadcast rights from Sony Picture Sports Network with a global, all-rights consolidated bid of $2.55 billion (₹16,247 crore). Star India acquired all IPL media rights for the five-year cycle, starting in 2018.

An awe-inspiring, albeit unsuccessful, $608.6 million Facebook bid for the digital rights has given a first real glimpse of the social media rights war chest.


Global sports business giants IMG made the announcement about its new avatar that its parent company WME | IMG would be renamed Endeavor.

It was a month of multiple major announcements and deals by IMG, which acquired the Seria A global broadcast rights in a deal worth $441 million per season. It was a severe blow to incumbent MP & Silva. It also formed a partnership with the International Volleyball Federation for the forthcoming Volleyball Nations League.

Augusta National Golf Club added Delta Airlines to the prestigious list of the Masters Tournament sponsors.

In two crucial acquisition deals, Sportradar acquired player-tracking tech startup MOCAP Analytics, and Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai captured 49% shares in NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

Japan’s Rakuten agreed to a $225 million content distribution tie-up with the NBA. Alibaba tied up with The Pac-12 Conference to show its content across mainland China for the first time.


Amazon made two important deals during the month. First, Amazon Tickets teamed up with golf’s Open Championship and its streaming division announced the long-awaited deal with the ATP World Tour. Amazon’s cloud computing arm – Amazon Web Services – became the official technology provider of the NFL with a focus on the Next Gen Stats player-tracking system.

In Europe, there were interesting commercial associations in the football world. Banco Santander announced a partnership with UEFA Champions League and Manchester City reportedly dumped Nike in favour of rivals Puma.

Elsewhere, CME Group and LPGA’s Tour Championship renewed their ties till 2023; DraftKings bagged live streaming rights for Euroleague and MLS bought a stake in Fanatics.

Taking a lead from the 2016 Olympics host city Brazil, PyeongChang 2018 organisers sought help from Airbnb to alleviate concerns over inadequate and costly accommodation around Games venues.


December brought a perfect icing on the cake to cap an awe-inspiring year for sports deals. The Walt Disney Company and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox announced a $52.4 billion mega-deal. The one deal will realign the sports broadcast landscape across the globe. The deal has a bigger significance for India as the leading sportscaster in the country, Star India is poised to witness policy and top management changes.

Among other landmark deals for the year, Dallas-based billionaire Tom Dundon signed an agreement to buy the NHL team Carolina Hurricanes. ESPN and NBC Universal extended their media-rights deals with the NFL to include live-streaming games on mobile devices.

FIFA entered into a sponsorship agreement with Mengniu Group – its fifth tie-up of the year with a Chinese company following lucrative deals with Alibaba Cloud, Tencent Sports, Hisense, and Vivo.