HomeNewsBT in exclusive talks with Discovery for JV sports channel

    BT in exclusive talks with Discovery for JV sports channel


    The operator had been in negotiations for months to sell BT Sports to streaming service DAZN

    BT Group has entered exclusive discussions with Discovery to create a joint venture between BT Sport and the pan-European TV network Eurosport.

    It seems BT has chosen to keep a position in sports TV rather than offloading the entire business unit, which was reportedly the original intention of the cash-strapped former monopoly.

    DAZN’s Chair, Kevin Mayer, said in a statement that the deal for BT Sport had “become uneconomical” for his company which still intended to expand its UK business.

    50:50 joint venture

    The proposed new business would be a 50:50 joint venture with Discovery and BT said it intends to retain BT Sport’s major sport broadcast rights, such as Premier League soccer.

    The joint venture’s coverage will include the Olympic Games, Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, cycling Grand Tours, tennis Grand Slams, the winter sport World Cup season and Premiership Rugby, the companies said.

    Marc Allera, CEO of BT Consumer, said the proposed joint venture would create an “exciting new sports broadcasting entity” for the UK.

    Not everyone is so sure. BT made the announcement alongside its quarterly update for the nine months to the end of December, with revenue falling 2% in the period to £15.68 billion pounds, and with declines in its global and enterprise businesses offset by growth in its Openreach wholesale access unit.

    A hospital pass?

    BT said as a result of COVID-19 and supply chain issues it now expected adjusted revenue for the year to be down around 2%. There is no guarantee hanging on to BT Sport will improve matters.

    Kester Mann, Director, Consumer and Connectivity, CCS Insight, commented, “as [DAZN’s] talks with BT broke down, Discovery looks to have gate-crashed the deal. BT’s move into sports broadcasting has always divided opinion amid the high spend needed to acquire football rights.

    “As the operator ups its focus on networks and connectivity, particularly its growing ambition in full-fibre, an eventual sale of any joint venture with Discovery could be the likely end-game for the operator.”

    “Initially, BT’s push into sport was successful in countering Sky’s bullish move into home broadband more than a decade ago. But it has failed to help turn around a continued decline in average spend and the unit was hit hard by the pandemic due to the closure of pubs and clubs.”

    “Today’s announcement reflects an ongoing reshaping of the sports distribution model as streaming providers steadily become more influential. Almost exactly a year ago, AT&T spun off its media business and merged it with Discovery, while Amazon continues to push into sport broadcasting, notably though Premier League football rights and tennis.”