John Petter, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, has suggested the telco is in a stronger position to secure further English Premier League football coverage when the next bidding round starts, possibly in early 2015.
Speaking to the UK’s Sunday Telegraph, Petter says that two “big things” have changed since it won the rights to 38 ‘top pick’ matches a season from 2013-14 to 2015-16, outbidding Sky.
“To some extent, whatever we do, it will be less risky than what we did the first time round. We had no other rights, no studio, no talent, and we had very little time. This time, we’ve got five million customers and all the infrastructure in place, so that obviously helps,” he said.
“The second piece is that BT has options coming into this auction because we have a very strong overall portfolio of rights and we have the choice to go very long, which I think a lot of people expect us to.” It also
In addition to its Premier League success, BT November 2013 secured the live broadcasting rights to UEFA Champions League football matches from 2015 as well as for UEFA’s Europa League in a €1 billion + bid, which usurped Sky and ITV from their respective premium and ITV’s free-to-air coverage.
BSkyB suggested that BT chose to pay “far in excess” of its own valuation, but Petter contends that the deal has given the telco “a full spectrum of options” for when the bidding gets underway.
BT Sport’s European football line-up also includes Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1, and Germany’s Bundesliga.
“We don’t necessarily have to go long because we have this very strong portfolio now. Our business model is different to Sky’s: we’re not charging people high prices and so we could choose to do the same again, we could even choose to do less, or we could choose a little bit more,” he explained.
“Sky on the other hand are in a difficult spot because of having seen how we bid in the Champions League, which only went to one round. If you’re the Premier League incumbent, you’re faced with a difficult choice because if you don’t go long in that first round you’re in a position where you can only lose, effectively,” he suggested.
BT was a surprise winning bidder in the last EPL auction round, with Al Jazeera seen as the most likely threat to Sky’s control of the top package. The Qatari-backed broadcaster could be joined by Discovery-owned Eurosport in the next round of bidding, but Petter suggests it would be “much harder” for any player outside the two incumbents to develop a successful service
“I would never discount it. I think we have to be very cautious of hubris after one strong year. We have to remain alert to fresh challenges and threats. On the other hand, it will be much harder for someone coming in now, because all the rights in the other sports are now on BT Sport for the most part if they’re not on Sky.”