BT Sport has retained exclusive rights to air Champions League and Europa League football in the UK, consolidating its place as a serious competitor to Sky in the premium sports arena.
BT secured the rights to the two leagues until the end of the 2020-21 season, gaining exclusive rights across all live games, highlights and in-match clips.
BT said it would make games available in 4K Ultra HD TV with Dolby Atmos sound as well as via its BT Sport app.
BT said that it would make clips, weekly highlights, UEFA’s magazine show, and both finals available for free on social media. BT streamed both finals last year on YouTube for the first time, taking the number of people who watched live coverage of the finals to more than 12 million.
BT said it would seek to bring coverage of the tournaments to its mobile base following last year’s acquisition of EE, which will help it recoup its investment.
BT has made BT Sport available to EE post-paid mobile customers since the middle of last year, with the BT Sport app available for free for six months and then as a £5 a month add-on.
BT TV customers can access BT Sport content from £3.50 a month.
Paolo Pescatore, VP of multiplay and media at analyst outfit CCS Insight said that the latest deal secured BT’s position as a serious competitor with Sky, but that it was likely that some of the growing cost of rights would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher subscription rates.
“This was a must win rights auction for BT and it means that it is here to compete with Sky for the long-haul. Last time round, BT was a challenger but now it has grown to be a strong player in sports TV rights. It is driving innovation with 4K and Dolby Atmos as well in other areas and has brought some great programming like the Champions league goals show,” said Pescatore.
“With this latest move, the company can continue to be innovative, however, there will be ongoing concerns on whether this cost will be passed onto consumers. Worryingly for consumers the escalating cost of premium content rights means that we will probably have to fork out more money which may drive some to watch via illegal streams.”
BT will pay around £394 million (€456 million) each year for the rights.
John Petter, Consumer CEO at BT, said: “We are delighted to have renewed these rights. The UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League are two of the best competitions in the world and we would like to thank UEFA for choosing us as their exclusive broadcast partner in the UK. The UEFA Champions League is due to get even stronger and we are delighted that fans will be able to enjoy two live matches a night for the first time.”
Guy Laurent Epstein, UEFA marketing director, said: “UEFA is delighted to have extended the relationship with BT Sport for a further three seasons, taking our partnership to 2021. BT Sport has proved to be an innovative broadcast partner, pushing the boundaries and covering the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League in new ways. BT have delivered strong audiences in the UK and we are excited about their future plans for the use of social media which will engage a growing fanbase that consumes sport in different ways.”
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