Sky Sports: “Rugby wasn’t working”

Sky Sports’ managing director, Barney Francis told a Leaders in Football event the inflated price they were forced to pay for English Premier League football as a result of BT bidding did mean other sports coverage would be compromised. BT’s challenge for live EPL football drove a 71 per cent increase in the value of the rights to more than £3 billion from the 2013-14 season.

Francis said the cost to the consumer would largely be absorbed by cost savings elsewhere but admitted there would be a knock-on effect for other sports. “You would expect us to build some inflation into our financial planning and we have flexibility to absorb the bulk of these costs. But… choices have to be made. I can’t tell you about the pricing structure but we have absorbed a lot of that cost. That’s not necessarily less money for other sports but we have to tighten our belts on some of those.”
Sky will pay £2.3 billion to air 116 live matches per season under the new deal, around £1 billion more than it currently pays for 115 matches. BT will pay £738 million for just 38 matches per season.

Francis implied the money saved by not bidding for Premier Rugby matches, which BT has won under a controversial deal that also includes European matches played by English clubs but is subject to challenge by the organising bodies, was an easy decision. “We have extended our Heineken Cup deal and have the Lions, the autumn internationals, so we are pretty well covered from rugby fans. Premiership Rugby made a decision to go with BT, it wasn’t particularly working for us and we were the junior partners.”

Francis claimed Sky was taking BT “very seriously” as a competitor.

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