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BT Sport will remain the exclusive UK home of all UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League football. Following a competitive auction process, BT has secured the rights until the end of the 2020/21 season that for the first time brings together exclusivity across all live games, highlights and in-match clips of both competitions. BT will pay around £394 million (€456m) each year for the rights. BT currently pays around £299 million a season for the live rights. It secured the non-exclusive clips rights in a separate deal shared with News UK.
The UEFA Champions League is set to be even stronger from 2018/19, with a minimum of four participating teams now guaranteed from each of England, Spain, Germany and Italy, resulting in more games between the top European teams. Fans will also be able to enjoy UEFA Champions League ‘double header’ nights, as live matches will kick off at both 6pm and 8pm during the Group Stage.
BT will continue to show UEFA matches using the latest broadcast innovation and technology, with games made available in 4K ultra high definition with Dolby Atmos sound, and via the BT Sport App.
BT will enhance its social media coverage to reach new audiences, by making clips, weekly highlights, UEFA’s magazine show, and both finals available for free on social media. BT streamed both finals last year on YouTube for the first time, taking the number of people who watched BT’s live coverage of the finals to more than twelve million. The company will also seek to bring the best of the action to its large mobile customer base.
“We are delighted to have renewed these rights,” declared John Petter, Consumer CEO at BT. “The UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League are two of the best competitions in the world and we would like to thank UEFA for choosing us as their exclusive broadcast partner in the UK. The UEFA Champions League is due to get even stronger and we are delighted that fans will be able to enjoy two live matches a night for the first time.”
Guy Laurent Epstein, UEFA marketing director, said: “UEFA is delighted to have extended the relationship with BT Sport for a further three seasons, taking our partnership to 2021. BT Sport has proved to be an innovative broadcast partner, pushing the boundaries and covering the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League in new ways. BT have delivered strong audiences in the UK and we are excited about their future plans for the use of social media which will engage a growing fanbase that consumes sport in different ways.”
BT says it has made top tier sport far more affordable in the UK in recent years. BT TV customers can access all of the action on BT Sport from just £3.50 a month and the company has also made its channels available to customers of EE.
Following the acquisition of EE last year which more than doubled BT’s marketable customer base, BT says it is in a strong position to monetise this investment through subscription, wholesale, commercial, and advertising revenues.
According to Paolo Pescatore, Vice President, Multiplay and Media, CCS Insight, this was a “must-win” rights auction for BT and it means that it is here to compete with Sky for the long-haul. “Last time round, BT was a challenger, but now it has grown to be a strong player in sports TV rights. It is driving innovation with 4K and Dolby Atmos as well in other areas and has brought some great programming like the Champions league goals show,” he noted.
“With this latest move, the company can continue to be innovative, however, there will be ongoing concerns on whether this cost will be passed onto consumers. Worryingly for consumers, the escalating cost of premium content rights means that we will probably have to fork out more money, which may drive some to watch via illegal streams,” he warned.