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Meeting increased cost of Premier League made “no sense” for ESPN

It made no sense to pay an additional 70% to retain English Premier League rights in the UK, given that telco BT viewed holding the sports rights as a way to defend its broadband business rather than as a profit centre in their own right, Murray Barnett, vice-president, media distribution, ESPN, told CTAM Europe EuroSummit attendees this morning.

ESPN lost out on English Premier League rights in the most recent bidding round as BT entered the market to acquire a package of rights for its BT Vision service. The UK telco beat competition from ESPN to secure two packages of rights for the 2013/14 to 2015/16 seasons, while pay TV operator BSkyB retained the rights to its five packages.

Speaking on a panel session on TV Everywhere at the EuroSummit, Barnett said that ESPN would focus on building an additional experience around sport and cited the example of the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics as an exemplary model. “It’s about a non-linear environment and offering enhanced services around that,” he said.

Most sports content was controlled by aggregators, while in the US sports rights-holders additionally exploited rights on their own online players, said Barnett. The opportunity for ESPN was to try different initiatives and to invest in different types of content such as documentary films about sports.