OTT & Digital , Startups & VCs

Discovery buys Play Sports Group to bolster new cycling OTT service

Eurosport’s UCI World Tour rights to underpin a new global cycling community platform.

by Tom Bassam

Discovery buys Play Sports Group to bolster new cycling OTT service

Global media company Discovery has announced the purchase of a 71 per cent controlling stake in Play Sports Group (PSG) – the firm behind digital cycling media brands Global Cycling Network, Global Mountain Bike Network and Global Triathlon Network.

The deal underpins Discovery's ambition to build a global cycling media ecosystem that leverages its principal sports brand Eurosport’s position as the major rights holder for cycling events in Europe. Eurosport’s portfolio of cycling rights includes all three Grand Tours, more than 35 UCI World Tour races, including all five Monuments, and the UCI World Championships.

Founded in 2012, PSG owns and operates eight cycling video channels specialising in cycling technology, training, tutorials, and behind the scenes content that generate over 45 million video views every month, with 5.7 million social followers and 3.1 million subscribers. During 2018, PSG launched five new international channels, a consumer retail division and fan club, and broadcast live racing on its YouTube channels and via Facebook Watch.

In partnership with PSG, Discovery will create a platform combining an over-the-top (OTT) service, a digital community, lifestyle content and events aimed at what is thought to be a US$50 billion global market.

Discovery took a 20 per cent stake in PSG in February 2017. This additional investment increases the company's ownership of PSG, which will become a subsidiary arm. PSG founder and chief executive Simon Wear and his team of 140 employees will join Discovery, forming a new global cycling-focused division in the company.

JB Perrette, Discovery Networks International president and chief executive, said: "This is another important step in Discovery's strategy of being the global leader in brands and products that power people's passions.  I couldn't be more excited to partner with Simon, a fantastic entrepreneur, and his terrific team to help turbo charge the expansion and globalisation of the Play Sports Group." 

 “As a fan and community-focused business, we could not be more perfectly aligned with Discovery's deep-rooted history in serving passionate, specialist audiences with super high-quality content,” added Wear.

"Since Discovery's initial investment in PSG, we have worked closely with JB Perrette and his team and it has become increasingly clear that, as innovative direct-to-consumer businesses, we have a shared vision of how to super-serve fans' ever-evolving needs.

“The combination of Discovery and Eurosport's leading package of cycling rights, its resources, infrastructure and company philosophy, combined with Play Sports Group's massive community of cycling fans means we have a phenomenal package. The opportunity to build a world class digital destination, in multiple languages, for cycling fans the world over is one that's just too good to miss."

Discovery's PSG investment continues the company's strategy of developing brands and products that super serve global communities of fans and enthusiasts, such as the strategic alliance with the PGA Tour to create a new international multi-platform home for golf, GolfTV. The new proposition creates opportunities to develop a significant direct-to-consumer offering for cycling fans.

“Discovery and Play Sports Group share a consumer-obsessed philosophy cantered on a deep understanding of super-fans and creating content that inspires, informs and entertains, taking them closer to the sports they love,” added Peter Faricy, Discovery’s chief executive of global direct to consumer.

"We know the value Play Sports Group bring to our portfolio and we're excited by the possibility of building a 360-degree proposition that combines the strength of their digital-first, fan-centric content, alongside Eurosport's premium live broadcasting rights and existing direct-to-consumer platforms."