Could Sky Sports’ monopoly on broadcasting live sport into the homes of millions of people across the UK be coming to an end?
That is one of the goals of a proposed joint venture between BT and Discovery, with the former looking to offload their Sport division to the highest bidder.
Discovery, the network that owns Eurosport amongst a number of other interests, is thought to be very keen on acquiring BT Sport, which owns the rights to broadcasting some Premier League games – and all Champions League games exclusively – until 2025.
If Discovery’s bid was successful, it would see the new entity show all of that football content as well as Premiership rugby, Ashes cricket, grand slam tennis events, the cycling Grand Tours, snooker and the Olympics – the first time that Sky would have had a major contender to its unrivalled power in more than a decade.
Mark Allera, the CEO of BT Consumer, says that the firm’s customers will be the ultimate beneficiaries of any deal.
“The proposed joint venture with Discovery, Inc. would create an exciting new sports broadcasting entity for the UK, and would act as a perfect home for our BT Sport business,” he said.
“With a shared ambition for growth, as well as the combination of our world class sports assets along with Discovery’s premium sports and entertainment content, our customers will benefit from even more content in more places.”
Under the terms of the proposed deal, BT Sport’s subscription-paying customers would get access to the Discovery channels and app, and vice versa. The process is moving so quickly that the new operation could be live in the second half of 2022.
It’s also been reported that DAZN, the streaming network that has exclusive rights to Matchroom Sport boxing cards and the women’s Champions League, is in the running to buy out BT Sport as well.
Sky Sports’ Three Decades of Dominance to End?
While Sky has seen off a number of pretenders to its throne as the king of TV sports coverage in the UK, a deal between BT and Discovery would be the first time that they will have to compete with a rival that holds the rights to genuinely desired content.
The competitive advantage of Sky has been diminishing since 2017, when they were made to sign a deal with BT that allowed customers of both firms to enjoy their content with one contract – meaning that sports fans no longer had to fork out for two separate subscription packages.
Sky has been haemorrhaging key deals, including the loss of Champions League football and Ashes cricket, in recent years, and the added financial heft of the Discovery network would give the new entity significant equity when the next set of broadcast rights go to the bidding process.
While TV subscriptions have been something of a loss-leader for BT, those that sign up for their Sport channels often take out broadband deals with the firm as well, so being a major player in sport broadcasting has its perks.
That is why they are entertaining the idea of a partnership with Discovery, and when you throw the increasing influence of Amazon Prime into the mix – the retail giant owns a share in Premier League and international rugby rights – it’s easy to see why Sky are nervy about their position as three-decades old market leader.