BT executive warns Sky over next Premier League rights cycle

BSkyB will have a “real problem” if the company is unable to retain rights to live coverage of 116 English Premier League football matches per season in the next cycle, according to John Petter, the chief executive of the consumer division at BT, which operates rival pay-television service BT Sport.

Petter suggested to the CNBC business news channel that BT Sport’s aggressive bidding for sports-rights since bursting onto the market by acquiring domestic rights for 38 Premier League matches per season for three years, between 2013-14 and 2015-16, had left Sky in a potentially fragile situation.

“It's quite a challenge for Sky because Sky have the biggest possible holding you can have – 116 games – and they've seen how BT has bid in previous auctions,” Petter said. “The question for them is, given the high prices that they charge, can they hold on to what they have? Because any outcome apart from keeping hold of the 116 games that they have is really a real problem for them.”

Various reports have suggested that a sales process for the next cycle of domestic Premier League rights, starting with the 2016-17 season, is likely to be launched in the coming months.

In November, BT Sport struck a deal to dislodge Sky as the Uefa Champions League’s main broadcast partner in the UK with an exclusive deal worth £897m (€1.12bn/$1.48bn) over three years, from 2015-16 to 2017-18.