Advanced Television

Sky 1 BT 0 (and lucky to score NIL)

February 16, 2018

Unfortunately for me, I support a football team who often have the nil end of a score line and often, frankly, they play so badly they are lucky to get nil.

If Sky and BT were in a pay-TV performance league there would be a lot of places between them: Sky headed for the Champions League while BT is constantly in danger of relegation.

The channel-sharing deal completed a few months ago was always likely to take the sting out of the EPL rights auction fixture, and so it proved. Without the intervention of a FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google), the rivals were happy to play out a low scoring match; with more rights on offer the combined price paid fell from £5.1 billion (€5.75bn) to £4.464 billion.

But fear not you Ferrari dealers and onyx sculptors of England, the hole in the Premier League finances looks like it will be more than filled by a substantial rise in international rights prices.

The savings for the UK pair are not insignificant – £200 million a year for Sky, and there was the added bonus that having secured the deal its share price inclined to above the tabled offer from Fox.

BT meanwhile has consistently seen its share price head the other way and at around £2.25, it is back where it was in 2012 when it first bid big for soccer rights. By that measure, the sports bet hasn’t paid off. And while it is spending £25 million a year less this time, it has only 32 games, so the price per game has actually gone up, and it has the less popular, early afternoon kick-offs. Like I say, lucky to score nil.

Sky has accepted a bid from Fox that regulators are likely in the end to wave through. And then Sky will, in all likelihood, become part of Disney as its bid for Fox succeeds.

Surely Disney, or someone else, will take advantage of a weak pound and put BT out of its media (and every other kind) of misery. For a FAANG it would be a mere morsel, or how about an audacious reverse takeover by a disappointed MTG after being left at the altar by TDC. I suppose BT’s neglect of its pension fund in favour of dividends and excessive executive pay may yet prove the poison pill that will keep it independent, even it continues to score nil.

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