BT has agreed to buy ESPN’s UK and Ireland television business as it bids to loosen BSkyB’s grip on the pay-TV sports market with the launch of its own channels.
The deal, which includes the ESPN and ESPN America channels, will see BT take on ESPN’s live sports rights package in Britain and Ireland, including live football matches from the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Europa League and German Bundesliga.
BT said yesterday it will take over the rights from 31 July and will continue to operate at least one ESPN-branded channel as part of its BT Sport package, which will launch in the summer.
BT, the former telecoms monopoly, took a leaf out of BSkyB’s book in June, winning a share of English Premier League football rights from 2013, and then buying exclusive rights to English Premiership rugby starting the same year.
The ESPN deal, for which no financial terms were revealed, also gives BT the right to broadcast live sports from the US.
Meanwhile, telecoms regulator Ofcom has told BT it will have to cut prices for leasing it high-speed data services to other firms, but the rules will not apply in London.
City A.M. Reporter