The Score keeping options open

Looking for a suitor, Score Media might find a match in the world of broadband - but it hasn't closed the door on Alliance Atlantis.

The head of Score Media is looking at other potential suitors to buy Canada’s third-largest cable sports channel, following the refusal late last week by Alliance Atlantis to obtain a majority stake in the company for $2.90 a share.

But founder and president John Levy says other suitors for The Score may not be the usual suspects like CanWest or Rogers. ‘There are buyers out there that are not so obvious, that are more in the broadband space and could change the landscape of this (transaction) dramatically,’ he says, citing the recent acquisition of broadband sportscaster XOS by Toronto-based online broadcaster JumpTV as an example.

Alliance Atlantis – currently in the midst of being acquired by CanWest Global Communications – had first dibs on gaining a controlling share, because at 22%, it has the second-highest stake in Score Media. Levfam Holdings, the family company controlled by Levy, has a nearly 38% stake, including 55% of the broadcaster’s voting shares. Toronto-based sports media company Insight Sports owns roughly 10%.

Levy, noting that Alliance itself is in an ‘unusual circumstance,’ says there is still a window of opportunity for the company to acquire The Score. ‘Alliance, specifically, declined . . . but that doesn’t mean that those who are potentially acquiring Alliance would not be interested.’

Formerly called Headline Sports, The Score was launched in 1994, when it began airing the latest headlines and scores from around the world on a 24-hour schedule. Its licence was amended in 2000 by the CRTC to include live sports programming.

Levfam Holdings now has 120 days to sell its interest to any other party at $2.90 a share or higher. Levy says they will assess the level of interest, but insists he is not driven by a need to sell. ‘If somebody hits a price that’s suitable to us, then we’re prepared to pass it on to have them work the asset and build it. However, if it doesn’t happen, The Score will continue to grow, even though it’s a very competitive environment.’

This story first appeared in Playback Daily.