Just months after thinking of quitting the sports broadcasting space altogether, BT has had a rethink and signed a merger deal with Warner Bros Discovery – who own Eurosport amongst many other channels.
It means that the new entity will share the rights in a 50:50 joint venture to show top-flight football, major tennis, rugby and even the Olympic Games – threatening Sky Sports’ near 30-year monopoly as the major broadcaster of sporting events in the UK.
And with Eurosport available on some of the more affordable cable TV packages, the hope is that more sporting action will be available to the average UK household than has been the case in years.
“The JV [joint venture] will have one of the most extensive portfolios of premium sports rights including UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, the Premier League, Premiership Rugby, UFC, the Olympic Games, tennis Grand Slams featuring the Australian Open and Roland-Garros, cycling Grand Tours including the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia and the winter sports World Cup season,” a post on Warner Bros Discovery’s website confirmed.
It’s not yet known how much a subscription package for the new company will cost, although for now BT Sport customers will have access to the Discovery Sport channels and Discovery+ entertainment app without needing to update their existing deals. It means that they will be able to live stream sporting action on their smartphones and tablets as well as on TV.
The deal sees Warner Bros give BT Sport £93 million initially to secure access to the latter network’s content, and in the future the merger could net BT a handsome £540 million if certain profitability targets are met.
The CEO of BT’s consumer division, Marc Allera, described Warner Bros as the ‘perfect partner’, and said:
“We’re excited to be joining forces to bring the best of BT Sport together with Eurosport UK to create a fantastic new sports offer, alongside all the entertainment that discovery+ has to offer BT customers.”
Will the Cost of Living Crisis Affect Sports On TV?
The new deal comes at a time when the average UK household is facing incredible financial pressure due to inflation and the cost of living crisis.
That is likely to lead to consumers tightening their belts somewhat when it comes to ‘leisure’ spending – a category which TV subscriptions would surely fall under.
According to the latest figures, some 1.5 million subscription packages were dropped by UK viewers in the first quarter of 2022 – that number includes Netflix, Apple TV and other such services.
“Rising household bills are starting to bite,” said entertainment journalist Josh Rom.
“If households want to want to watch premium content, they have to pay significant costs to various different subscriptions, which is a large cost when it is combined.
“This cost will continue to add up, and that is why we are seeing the decline and households cancelling streaming services.”
With the overall demand for subscription TV likely to diminish in 2022 alongside other ‘leisure’ purchases, has the BT Sport and Discovery joint venture been poorly times, or can they squeeze Sky out of the market?