BT defends £897m deal for Champions League rights

Oliver Smith
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THE BATTLE between Sky and BT for dominance in televised sport came to a head this weekend with the surprise announcement that Champions League matches will be shown exclusively on BT Sport from 2015 as part of a £900m investment by the telecoms giant.

New chief executive Gavin Patterson defended the huge price tag, more than double the current deal, as “what it was worth to us”.

The win will put all 350 Champions League matches each season on BT’s channels until 2018. The current contract is split between Sky and ITV.

“We have attracted millions of customers by giving sport back to the fans, and we can assure people who want to catch all the action, that European football will be far more accessible and affordable with BT,” said Patterson – who pledged to offer Champions League finals, as well as a match from every British team – for free to households without BT Sport.

Analysts have already started to question what the loss will mean for Sky when its contract expires in 2015 and it loses a core part of its mid-week schedule.

“This is a key content loss for Sky,” said Berenberg media analyst Sarah Simon who wondered whether Sky will be able to maintain its premium pricing for Sky Sports.

In a statement Sky said: “It seems BT chose to pay far in excess of our valuation. If we thought it was worth more, we’d have paid more. Nothing changes until 2015 and we look forward to 18 more months of live Champions League on Sky Sports. We will now re-deploy resources and continue to bring customers the best choice of TV across our offering.”

Last week BT reported its sports television efforts a huge success as it stemmed customer losses and enticed the majority of new broadband customers to sign up its new service.