The Score, the specialty sports TV channel owned by Score Media Inc., is up for sale, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company has been asking a steep price for the 24-hour network, sources say – as much as $200-million. Score Media brought in $7.6-million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) last year, meaning at that price the channel would cost more than 26 times company earnings, a lofty price multiple in any industry, and especially the media business.
The Score, the country’s No. 3 cable sports broadcaster, does not have a lock on nearly as much live sports content as its two biggest rivals, TSN and Rogers Sportsnet. Both are owned by well-capitalized telecommunications giants (BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., respectively) that engage in bidding wars over the most coveted TV rights, for programming such as NHL hockey games, football and Major League Baseball.
The Score, by contrast, is run mostly as a sports information network, airing talk and highlights shows. It also broadcasts some events such as poker, WWE Wrestling and NBA basketball.
That’s not likely to change. If anything, it will only get more expensive for Score Media to be in the sports TV business as television rights to sports events – and even their highlights – get more expensive.
In June, Bell Media president Kevin Crull told reporters outside of a regulatory hearing that those rights have “gone up exponentially” and could double every four or five years. That makes it more difficult for an independent player like Score Media to compete for more live sports, which is the most valuable sports content because viewers will sit through commercials to watch it.
It’s not the first time The Score has been on the block. Founded in the ‘90s as a sports information ticker with scrolling text across a television screen, it was built into a specialty network that counted 6.8 million subscribers as of last year, according to numbers filed to the federal broadcast regulator. The channel has been up for sale many times over the years.
“The network’s been in play since the day we launched, if you know what I mean,” Score Media chief executive officer John Levy said. “There’s always been stories like that. These rumours come and go all the time, and we never comment on anything like that.”
But according to people familiar with the matter, the network always had trouble selling because the price was high.
These days, sports fans access much of their sports information online and on mobile devices – including Score Media’s own mobile apps, which deliver stats, scores and betting odds to smart phones and tablet devices like the iPad.
The mobile products have been a growth story for the company, though the potential to drive meaningful advertising revenues is still unproven. Last week, Score Media announced it would open up a sales office in New York dedicated to advertising sales for its digital properties there.