BT has entered into exclusive talks with US pay-TV giant Discovery to create a joint venture which will include BT Sport, which owns the rights to sports including the Premier League and Champions League.
The joint venture, which BT says will be operational later this year subject to regulatory approval, ends nearly a year of uncertainty over the future of the company’s pay-TV sports operation. telecommunications, ten years old.
The decision to partner with Discovery, which in the past has considered bidding for UK Premier League television rights, is a blow to sports streaming firm Dazn.
Backed by billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik, Dazn, dubbed the “Netflix of sport”, had been pushing for a deal to buy BT Sport to fuel its UK growth plans.
“The proposed joint venture with Discovery would create an exciting new sports broadcasting entity for the UK and act as an ideal home for our BT Sport business,” said Marc Allera, Managing Director of BT’s Consumer Division. “With a shared ambition for growth, as well as the combination of our world-class sports assets with Discovery’s premium sports and entertainment content, our customers will enjoy even more content in more places.”
BT, which had to seek clearance from the Premier League and Champions League to push through the change of ownership, has also extended a reciprocal channel supply deal with Sky, which is crucial to its business, until 2030. sports broadcasting.
The telecoms company has spent billions on sports rights to drive the growth of BT Sport since its launch a decade ago to stem the loss of millions of broadband customers lured by rival Sky’s offerings combining internet connectivity with sports and entertainment programs.
The company has done its job well, despite having just a few million customers and making a small profit, and BT is now focusing on its £15billion plans to roll out mobile broadband networks and Next-gen 5G across the UK.
“Today, two important strategic partnership announcements on how BT moves forward in the rapidly changing content and TV industry. The agreement in principle with Sky will give our customers more choice and more flexibility for next decade,” said BT Chief Executive Philip Jansen. “Separately, we are excited about the prospect of a new joint venture between BT Sport and Eurosport UK as we enter into exclusive discussions with Discovery.”
Dazn said his plans for the UK remain unfinished but the deal he was discussing with BT Sport was not commercially viable.
“We remain fully committed to growing our business and investing in the UK, as you will see in the near future,” said Kevin Mayer, Chairman of Dazn. “On this occasion, however, the deal for BT Sport has become unprofitable for Dazn. However, we respect that BT has chosen a different strategic path and wish BT, BT Sport and Discovery all the best for the future. .