Chelsea FC sells TV rights to VideoNet

Chelsea Football Club has sold its video-on-demand television rights to TV start-up VideoNet.

The deal was struck between the club’s TV arm, Chelsea Village TV, and the video-on-demand network, which will air the station’s output in September.

Chelsea Village TV produces a half-hour show during the football season, called Blue Tomorrow, as well as holding the rights to thousands of hours of archive footage of the London club, which finished third in the Premier League last season.

Sports marketing agency Universal Sports Marketing (USM) will market VideoNet’s rights. USM managing director Peter Lewinton says: “This deal is good for VideoNet and ourselves because it gives us a relationship with a leading rights holder in football.”

A source close to the deal says: “It gives Chelsea a foothold in an area of new media that will grow in the future.”

VideoNet recently awarded ad agency Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters what it claimed to be a &£10m account to handle its national roll-out in October. The network predicts 3 million customers over the next five years.

Leading Premiership clubs are expected to forge alliances with media players before the TV rights deal with BSkyB and the BBC expires in 2001. Although the Restrictive Practices Court has allowed the Premier League to continue to sell its rights collectively, most observers believe clubs will ensure they retain some control over their media rights in order to sell them in any new deals.

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