E.ON leads race to sponsor ITV FA Cup

Energy company E.ON is frontrunner to be the first UK broadcast sponsor of the FA Cup when TV rights transfer to ITV from the BBC next year.

E.ON, which is rebranding in the UK from Powergen, currently sponsors the FA Cup and will get first refusal on any broadcasting sponsorship deal next year. The tournament has only ever been shown on BBC.

ITV and Setanta sports won the exclusive broadcast rights to the FA Cup and England matches from August 2008 to July 2012. The FA

Cup rights are expected to generate £425m for the FA Cup – a 42% increase on the current deal.

Insiders believe the transfer to commercial terrestrial TV will make sponsorship of the tournament, which E.ON holds until 2010, a more valuable proposition.

Nationwide, meanwhile, is expected to be given first refusal on broadcast sponsorship of the England matches. Both brands will get the pick of the advertising slots in commercial breaks.

The ITV deal surprised media buyers. Days earlier ITV had threatened to stop bidding for premium sports rights if agencies and advertisers did not support them.

One media buyer says: “ITV had said that if agencies did not get advertisers to support the Rugby World Cup it would stop bidding for premium sporting rights.”

It follows a disappointing football World Cup 2006, which failed to kickstart an expected upturn in the broadcaster’s ad revenue fortunes in the second half of last year.

He says ITV will not make money out of the football deal from advertisers “on the current model” although he believes ITV has made the right call by “putting the viewers first”. “They will get lots of right kind of viewers and advertising revenue ought to follow that.”

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