UPC, the Swiss telecoms firm, has today secured exclusive live rights to broadcast the country’s top-tier National League ice hockey competition through to 2027, on its MySports pay-TV channels, in a deal that represents an upgrade on its previous offering.
MySports currently shares live rights with public-service broadcaster SRG SSR, in a deal which started in 2017. However, that is set to expire at the end of the 2021-22 season, and UPC will be the sole rights holder from 2022-23 for the next five campaigns.
As things stand, SRG SSR will no longer be involved in covering elite Swiss ice hockey from that point on, although the league has said there will still be free-to-air live coverage of a small number of games, with a sub-licensing partner still to be chosen.
The first partnership between UPC has extended across the 2017-18 to 2021-22 seasons of the National League, second-tier National League B, and regional amateur Regio League, as well as for selected games of the Swiss national team.
However, today's extension only covers the National League, and not the lower leagues and Swiss international games.
UPC will continue to show all National League games live on MySports, which it launched in 2017, with German, Italian and French commentary.
Although there is now no official deal between the National League and SRG SSR, one game per week will continue to be broadcast live on free-to-air, and highlights from each fixture will also be available free. In addition to this, “numerous live playoff matches will be shown on free TV”, the league has said.
The National League has said it will “provide information about the relevant distribution partners and the exact broadcast formats at a later date." As the sole rights-holder from next year onwards, UPC will be able to set the terms and price for any sub-licensing agreement.
Currently, MySports is available as a package to UPC customers, as well as on various cable TV networks in the country, and also through the UPC over-the-top mobile app.
Andre Krause, Sunrise UPC’s chief executive, said: “We are pleased the National League continues to trust us… With our commitment, we want to continue the success story of the Swiss national sport, and MySports and UPC will offer all fans a unique ‘home of hockey’.”
Denis Vaucher, the National League’s chief executive, added: “Continuing the partnership with MySports means a lot to the National League. In a refreshing way, MySports has managed to develop unique expertise in Swiss ice hockey.”
When asked about the finances of the new deal, Vaucher said: “In view of the difficult and uncertain situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic, we actually achieved a very good result."
In October last year, UPC was fined SFr30 million ($33 million) by Weko, the country's competition commission, for abusing its position as the domestic rights holder of Swiss ice hockey.
When it launched MySports four years ago, and first acquired live ice hockey rights, UPC replaced Teleclub, owned by telecoms rival Swisscom, as the rights holder.
However, UPC then refused to give Swisscom any opportunity to broadcast live ice hockey, which Weko ruled last year was an abuse of its dominant position.
As well as Swiss ice hockey, MySports shows German soccer's Bundesliga through UPC's deal with pay-TV's Sky Bundesliga.