An O2 Academy

The U.K. chain of Carling-branded venues that includes London’s Brixton Academy will be known as O2 Academies effective Jan. 1.

Academy Music Group (AMG) is ending its sponsorship partnership with the brewer and entering a new one with the same communications company that has the naming rights for the AEG-run London O2 Arena. AMG is owned by by Live Nation, Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments and U.K. concert promoters Metropolis Music and SJM Concerts.

Carling’s five-year naming and pouring rights deal with AMG expires in a couple of months. Technological progress appears to have swayed AMG toward partnering with a communications company rather than renew the brewer’s deal.

The news comes at a time when Carling looks to be cutting down or re-focusing its live music interests. Carling had the branding rights for the twinned Reading and Leeds Festivals until a year ago.

It’s likely it will continue to compete to be the main beer-supplier for the 11 AMG venues and any others added to the network.

Live Nation U.K. president Paul Latham described the new O2 deal as “more partnership than sponsorship” as he outlined the benefits of a promoter and a venue chain working with a communications company that can help sell tickets.

He spoke at the press launch of the new partnership at London’s Haymarket Hotel Nov. 4, which also included presentations from Telefonica O2 U.K. chief exec Ronan Dune and AMG chief exec John Northcote.

The companies already have some experience working together, as the phone company has sponsored LN’s annual O2 Wireless Festival since 2005.

The new deal enables the two to widen that relationship and work together to reach out to the U.K.’s concert-going, mobile phone-toting youngsters who will also benefit from having priority access to tickets.

O2 customers will have the chance to buy tickets for Academy shows and other LN events up to 48 hours before they go on general sale.

They may also be able to enjoy other benefits, including fast-track entry to shows and access to special areas where they can relax before and after events.

O2 will have the first option on exclusive live content from Academy gigs and will work closely with the artists to make it available for download to mobile handsets.

Through its Napster and Myplay music services, O2 also has a variety of platforms for artists to distribute their material direct to fans.

Apart from Brixton Academy, the deal also includes the Academy venues in London’s Islington district, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Oxford, Sheffield, Leeds and London’s Shepherds Bush Empire.

A new Academy venue in Brighton, the old Hippodrome, is being refurbished and is expected to open in 2010. Meanwhile, Latham and Northcote are confident that AMG will buy a couple of extra buildings by then.