BT Sport is to be rebranded as TNT Sports in the first major development of the joint venture between BT Group and Warner Bros Discovery.
Under the rebrand, which will take place in July, programming will stay largely the same, with TNT Sports remaining centred around live Premier League and Champions League football, domestic and European club rugby, and boxing.
Discovery-owned Eurosport’s portfolio of rights, which includes cycling, tennis and the Olympics, is not set to be amalgamated into TNT Sports until after 2024 and perhaps as late as 2026.
BT’s consumer chief and chair of the joint venture Marc Allera said there were no plans to change prices now but that “it’s impossible to offer guarantees”.
“This market is moving at a fast pace,” he added. “How the portfolio evolves determines the price of the product and how much we charge.”
“The pricing is independent of the name change,” said Warner Bros Discovery Sports Europe president Andrew Georgiou.
TNT, which stands for Turner Network Television, is a major sports rights holder in the Americas but has no history in the UK, giving it a combination of “global resonance” and “a clean slate”, said Georgiou.
The BT Sport app will be axed in the summer, when all TNT Sports content will be migrated to the Discovery+ streaming platform, as BT pivots to using EE as its main consumer brand. BT Sport customers have already been given access Discovery+.
But the ongoing separation of Eurosport, due to existing carrier deals with other broadcasters such as Sky and Virgin Media, means that consumers will continue to face a confusing and fragmented market.
Media analyst Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight said the joint venture “promises to simplify the overall sports experience for fans in the long term” but faced “numerous challenges in the short term of managing a multi-brand strategy”.
“Initially there will be resentment as it will feel like another sports brand entering the UK market in an increasingly fragmented world,” he added.
“During a cost of living crisis this might give people a reason to cancel. Hence all focus must be placed on positioning and adding greater value for sports fans as part of the Discovery+ umbrella.”
Adam Dalrymple of Enders Analysis said: “TNT Sports offers a very similar proposition for consumers, just without the brand-recognition of BT Sport, as the TNT brand will have little resonance with consumers this side of the Atlantic, which they will no doubt want to address with a launch marketing campaign.
“The consolidated rights portfolio will provide a wider offering, but BT Sport is bringing most of the value to the joint venture. Eurosport’s most high-profile rights, the Olympics, only lasts for two weeks every two years and its output is overshadowed by the free-to-air coverage on the BBC.”