BT to launch new football channel after Premier League rights move

UK telecommunications company BT said it would launch a new football-focused channel after acquiring live domestic rights for the English Premier League in a three-season deal, from 2013-14 to 2015-16.

BT, which emerged as a surprise winner in the tender yesterday alongside incumbent rights-holder, pay-television broadcaster BSkyB, will pay £246 million (€304 million/ $380 million) per season for its two packages of live rights. BT will have 18 first-pick matches per season and a total of 38 games per year.

“We’ll be launching a new football-focused channel to carry the games,” BT said. “It will offer new interactive features when supplied over BT’s fibre network and we will look to distribute it on other platforms. We’ll be releasing full details and pricing as soon as we can.”

BT chief executive Ian Livingston said: “We are pleased to have won these rights and to have secured around half of the best games on offer each season. We look forward to offering football fans real value and great quality using the latest technology. BT is already investing £2.5 billion in fibre broadband. Securing Premier League rights fits naturally with this, as consumers increasingly want to buy their broadband and entertainment services from a single provider.”

BT will replace pay-television broadcaster ESPN, which has one season remaining on a three-year rights deal, from 2010-11 to 2012-13, to show 23 matches per campaign.
ESPN said it would continue to show the matches as planned next season, but did not comment on the future implications of the loss of the rights for the broadcaster’s UK channel.

“We made a strong bid that reflected the value of the rights to our business, and we thank the Premier League for the chance to participate,” ESPN said. “We’re looking forward to continuing our Premier League coverage next season, and continuing to serve fans with great live sports events and programming including the FA Cup, Europa League, Scottish Premier League, Serie A, Premiership Rugby, Top 14, golf, darts, UFC, NBA and much more.”

Sky, which has been a live domestic broadcast partner of the Premier League since its inaugural season in 1992-93, will pay £760 million per year for its five packages of live rights to show a total of 116 games per year, which was the maximum permitted for one broadcaster in the tender.

The next cycle of live domestic rights will generate £3.018 billion for the league – a 70-per-cent increase from the current cycle.

At 2pm today, Thursday, BT’s share price on the London Stock Exchange had slipped by 3.23 per cent while Sky’s share price had fallen by 5.75 per cent.