BT is gearing up to defend its control of Champions League TV rights as the telecoms giant cashes in on price rises in its broadcast division.
BT Sport paid £1.2bn in 2017 to secure exclusive rights to Champions League and Europa League matches for three seasons, cementing its control of European football coverage.
Governing body Uefa has told potential bidders that the next round of rights will be put up for auction in the middle of next month, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
BT, which upset the apple cart in 2013 when it outbid rival Sky for Champions League broadcast rights, will be favourite to win the next auction and retain the rights.
It comes after the company rolled out price hikes across its TV packages, with some customers facing increases of as much as £48 a year.
However, the increases have reportedly had little impact on BT’s cancellation rate, while boosting profit in the company’s broadcast division.
BT’s bold move into football broadcasting raised eyebrows with many investors and analysts, who questioned the wisdom of the hefty investment.
But the upcoming auction may offer an opportunity for the company to slim down its bill. In a note earlier this year, Enders Analysis said the auction offered BT “extensive scope for cost cutting”.
“We still struggle to see how rights are worth anything like roughly £400m a year, especially given the unpredictable nature of English team performances going forward and limited window of important games,” it said.
After more than a decade of intense rivalry, Sky and BT last year exchanged a peace offering that could mark the end of a period of sharp inflation for rights costs.
Under the agreement, the two firms now offer their sports channels on the other’s pay-TV service, reducing the significance of securing exclusive broadcasting rights.
The deal led to a deflation of prices in the following Premier League auction, and a similar easing could be on the cards from Uefa’s auction.
BT has been contacted for comment.
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