BT has renewed its deal for UK rights to the UEFA football championships, beating off reported interest from Sky and ITV. BT will pay £1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) for the rights to the Champions League, UEFA Europa League and the new Europa Conference League from 2021/22 to 2023/24.
The deal gives BT exclusive rights to 420 games a season, 77 more than in the current contract, together with highlights and in-match clips. BT has held exclusive rights to the two main UEFA leagues since 2015.
The telco said that last season BT Sport saw a 26% increase in Champions League viewer hours, with the final between English teams Liverpool and Tottenham pulling in 11.3 million viewers. the match was aired free-to-view on the BT Sport channel and app, Virgin Media and YouTube.
The most significant thing about BT's deal is not so much the price but that the telco made the bid at all. By securing rights to European club football until 2024, BT has made a statement that it intends to remain in the pay TV market in the UK for the foreseeable future. Its costly acquisition of sports rights was seen as being in question following the departure of chief executive Gavin Patterson in February and a £1.5 billion drive to reduce costs.
The UEFA competitions are not the only rights in its portfolio, but they make up an important part. BT is in the first year of a new contract for Premier League rights which runs to 2022 and in the final year of a deal for Premiership rugby union. The fee of £1.2 billion is only marginally more than BT is paying under its contract and slightly less than the £1.3 billion we forecast in Channels and Programming Intelligence.
In 2017, BT agreed a wholesale deal with Sky which will mean that for the first time it will be able to offer all of Sky's sports channels to its customers, while allowing Sky to sell BT Sport to its customers for the first time. This agreement has still not been put into effect, though it is now expected to be implemented in 2020. Once BT has secured the right to resell Sky's sports channel, it may decide it is safe to reduce its rights exposure - but clearly it's not at that point yet.