Eurosport launches betting site and expands to Middle East

Pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport has revealed plans to launch an online betting venture and an Arabic website. The announcements came during celebrations marking its 20th anniversary.

The broadcaster will launch in the UK next Monday. The website, developed by Societe des Paris Sportifs (SPS) as a joint-venture between Eurosport and Serendipity Investment, has been operating on an invite-only test basis in the UK since March. Eurosport has ambitious plans to launch the website in two countries per year up to 2013, although much will depend on getting regulatory clearance in each country, with much of Europe historically bound by state-controlled gambling monopolies. Caroline de Fontenay, marketing director at SPS told journalists that the gambling service would launch in Italy in October and France early next year, with Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Poland to follow. Eurosport and SPS are targeting over half a million active players and turnover of €200m by 2012. 

As Eurosport celebrated its 20th year, chairman and CEO Laurent-Eric Le Lay reflected on the broadcaster’s success to date. “TV remains the best way to watch sport,” he said. “If you compare TV today with 20 years ago, the quality of picture and sound is fantastic. TV remains our primary business and our goal is to propose something to viewers that’s interesting at every moment.” He said the broadcaster now reaches 116 million homes across 59 European countries. The broadcaster’s HD service reaches at least 2.4 million households in 29 countries. Eurosport’s general managing director, distribution and development Jean-Thierry Augustin said he expected to launch Eurosport HD in Spain and Germany this year, while the broadcaster also plans to create a high definition version of Eurosport 2, which is likely to launch in Scandinavia, possibly later this year.

Le Lay also highlighted the growing importance of Eurosport’s online presence and announced plans to launch a website in Arabic, its first foray into the Middle East region. The broadcaster has partnered with Dubai-based telco Du to develop the service. Arnaud Maillard, director of internet and mew media, said the broadcaster needed to keep innovating and contimue investing in its online presence to remain at the “cutting edge” of sports internet services. “We need scale,” he said. “Therefore we want to extend our footprint which is why, following the launch of our Polish site earlier this year, we have decided to launch an Arabic site by the end of the year.”  It will be Eurosport’s 11th website.

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