Discovery expands into sports and scripted series with Eurosport, SBS Nordic deals

Top nonfiction cable programmer Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA) is adding sports content and scripted series to its portfolio in deals that could make it the majority owner of some of the biggest networks in Europe.

Discovery announced Friday that it agreed to buy SBS Nordic from Germany's ProSiebenSat.1 Group, which will give it 12 networks in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, including networks that carry general entertainment and sports programming. The deal is valued at $1.7 billion, which Discovery CEO David Zaslav said would make it the largest acquisition in Discovery's history.

Separately, Discovery said it is also close to finalizing a deal with France's TF1 to acquire a 20 percent stake in Eurosport International and Eurosport France for $221.6 million and possibly increase its stake to 51 percent in two years. Zaslav told reporters on a conference call Friday that Discovery was attracted to Eurosport's focus on carrying sports such as skiing, tennis and curling, rather than bidding on more expensive soccer rights.

Don't expect Discovery to challenge ESPN and Fox Sports in the United States, though. "The U.S. sports business is completely different. It tends to be dominated by huge checks you have to buy. I don't see us getting into that business in the U.S.," Zaslav said.

Discovery also said Friday that it plans to increase its share repurchase program by $1 billion.

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