O2 renews sponsorship of Academy music venues in £70m deal – The Guardian

O2 has renewed its sponsorship of music venues across Britain, including the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Brixton Academy and Manchester Apollo, in a deal thought to be worth about £70m over the next decade.

The agreement sees the mobile phone operator retain the O2 Academy naming rights to the music venues in 13 cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Oxford, Sheffield and Leeds.

The 10-year deal, struck with Live Nation and Academy Music Group which own the venues, is thought to be worth about £7m a year, significantly more than the £4.5m it paid under the previous deal.

In February, the telecoms firm splashed out £125m to keep the naming rights to the London venue The 02, formerly known as the Millennium Dome, until at least 2027.

Nina Bibby, chief marketing officer at O2, said the latest deal was a shot in the arm for the live music industry which has seen a huge number of smaller venues close across the country in the last decade.

“The Academy venues are local venues, part of the communities in which they are located,” she said. “They support grass roots music communities. It is amazing to me when you look at how the music industry has evolved over the last decade, live music is now so important to artists, the venues are to their communities and to music fans. This isn’t just some badging exercise paying some money to be a naming partner. It is so much more than a sponsorship.”

Overall, attendance figures for live music – from bars and clubs to festivals and stadium tours – in the UK rose 12% to 30.9 million.

Under the terms of O2’s previous deal, which was originally struck in 2008 for five years and then extended for a further five, the company paid about £4.5m a year to sponsor 11 venues.

The bump up in price is partly owing to there now being 19 venues and also a significant increase in perks O2 can offer its customers.

This will include a doubling of the number of tickets available for customers through its priority tickets service, which makes them available 48 hours before they go on general sale.

The extra allotment of tickets will also extend to other Live Nation-promoted events, which include large music festivals such as Reading, Leeds and Wireless, which O2 says give it access to venues “from the smallest of rooms to stadia”.

O2 will also give the venues a digital upgrade three years on from introducing free wifi across the 19 venues.

The company, which is owned by Spanish telecoms company Telefonica, is expected to be an aggressive bidder in broadcasting regulator Ofcom’s upcoming multi-billion pound auction for mobile spectrum that will enable 5G services in the next decade.

O2 is seeking to return to the stock market with an £11bn initial public offering potentially later this year.

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