Advanced Television

BT snatches Champions League rights

November 11, 2013

By Colin Mann

football-RonaldoIn what is a major blow to BSkyB’s premium and ITV’s free-to-air coverage, UK telco BT has 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 + deal. UEFA said that an announcement on the awarding of co-exclusive highlights rights in respect of both competitions would be made in due course.

The move means that ITV’s sole live football coverage from 2015 will be England’s home and away matches, which it has tied up until 2018. BT Sport and the BBC will take over FA Cup rights from the 2014/15 season. BSkyB has the lion’s share of English Premier League games and the majority of the ‘top pick’ fixtures. BT Sport has the rights to 38 games per season. Both BSkyB and ITV face additional competition from the BBC for the highlights package.

Sky has suggested that its pay-TV rival has over-bid to secure the rights. A spokesman said: “We bid with a clear view of what the rights are worth to us. It seems BT chose to pay far in excess of our valuation. There are many ways in which we can invest in our service for customers. We take a disciplined approach and there is always a level at which we will choose to focus on something else. If we thought it was worth more, we’d have paid more. Nothing changes until 2015 and we look forward to 18 more months of live Champions League on Sky Sports. We will now re-deploy resources and continue to bring customers the best choice of TV across our offering.”

BT Sport will be the new UK home of UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League football, following an tender process in which BT won the exclusive live broadcast rights to all 350 matches from both tournaments. The rights run for three seasons from 2015/16.

This is the first time a single UK broadcaster has won the exclusive live rights to all matches from both tournaments. The hundreds of additional top tier matches will boost BT Sport and make it the natural home for football fans who wish to see the very best European sides pitted against each other, says the telco.

BT has agreed to pay around £299 million a season for the rights, an amount it said it can incur without changing its current financial outlook. The exact sum is €1,075,981,484.31.

Marc Watson, CEO of BT TV, told in June that the telco would “stick around for the long term” with its sports channels and declared that the company had “deep pockets” to enable it to compete for premium sports rights. He said that BT wanted BT Sport to grow its whole consumer business in the UK, and was confident in its ability to compete with Sky. “We intend to stick around in this game for the long term. We are a big business; this is our home market. We are a British company. And we’re not that easy to chase out of town. We’ve got the quality of games. Although we will always be careful about what we spend, and we will look to spend wisely, we have deep pockets to really compete in the market.”

BT has pledged to make its new matches far more accessible and affordable for fans who wish to enjoy all the action. It also announced it will show a selection of these new matches for free on BT Sport, even to homes that have not signed up to the channels.

The finals of each tournament will be showcased in this fashion along with a selection of top matches from earlier rounds. Fans will also be delighted to know that each participating British team will feature for free at least once each season.

BT says the addition of the midweek matched will ensure the channels are even stronger, with live football being broadcast regularly throughout the week.

Gavin Patterson, BT chief executive, said: “I am thrilled that BT Sport will be the only place where fans can enjoy all the live action from the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Both tournaments are world class and firm favourites with many. The live rights will give a major boost to BT Sport and give people yet another reason to take our terrific service. BT Sport has got off to a strong start with customers enjoying what we have to offer. We have attracted millions of customers by giving sport back to the fans, and we can assure people who want to catch all the action, that European football will be far more accessible and affordable with BT.”

Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA Events SA Marketing Director, said: “UEFA is delighted to welcome newcomer BT Sport to the family of UEFA Champions League rights holders. Since its launch in the summer, BT Sport has been UEFA’s partner for the UEFA Europa League and has demonstrated its ability to deliver premium sports coverage. We look forward to working with BT Sport on both competitions in the 2015-18 rights cycle.”

The UEFA Champions League, which features the top Barclays Premier League football teams, is an incredibly popular tournament with the total UK audience being around 30 million viewers on average in recent seasons . In addition to the top teams from England, Celtic have also featured, having qualified for the main stages of the tournament via earlier rounds.

The UEFA Europa League, which was won last season by Chelsea, currently features the fifth placed Barclays Premier League team as well as the winners of the FA Cup and League Cup. Teams that drop out of the UEFA Champions League group stages also feature in the tournament.

The rights are expected to drive additional growth in BT Consumer revenue and profits over the medium-term. BT will pay a deposit of around £60 million in November 2013 followed by six-monthly instalments commencing July 2015. Despite these payments, BT says its financial outlook is unchanged.


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