BT shot into the lucrative world of Premier League football yesterday, splashing out £738m to share domestic rights with BSkyB as the cost of broadcasting live games rocketed by an eye-watering 70 per cent.
Fierce competition for the rights, believed to have involved channels such as Al Jazeera and current holders ESPN, saw the price of the three year package jump to £3.018bn – a huge rise from its previous level of £1.78bn.
Sky will televise 166 Premier League games in the UK throughout the new round, which starts in August 2013 and ends in May 2016, paying an astonishing £2.28bn to remain the primary broadcaster.
Yet BT’s move for 38 games over three seasons reflects the increasing rivalry that the News Corporation controlled company faces for its domination of football coverage.
“We are already investing £2.5bn in fibre broadband,” BT’s chief executive Ian Livingston said last night. “Securing Premier League rights fits naturally with this, as consumers increasingly want to buy their broadband and entertainment services from a single provider.”
The company sought to reassure fans that it will talk to other media providers so that games are made as widely available as possible.
The result means that next season could be the last in which ESPN broadcasts live Premier League games in the UK, although Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore said he hoped the firm would return to the bidding table for future years.
The bidding round only included games to be shown live in the UK. The rights for highlights programmes last fetched £179.7m, while the Premier League also sells rights to broadcast games abroad. The auctions for foreign coverage of Premier League games from 2013-14 to 2015-16 begins this September and lasts several months.
•BT’s bid secured the firm 18 first picks, ensuring that nearly half of their 38 games should be big clashes featuring the top sides.
•BT will be able to show games played at lunchtime on Saturdays (usually 12.45pm) as well as a cluster of matches on midweek evenings and Bank holidays.
•Yet Sky retains the vast majority of the deal. All Sunday Premier League games will be on Sky, as well as late kicks offs on Saturdays and Mondays.