Tuesday 22 June 2021 10:23 am

Murdoch’s News UK 'held talks' over BT Sport tie-up

Rupert Murdoch’s News UK is said to have eyed up a partnership with BT’s TV division as the mogul looks to secure the future of his media empire.

News UK, which publishes The Sun and The Times titles, held talks with the telecoms giant over a potential tie-up with BT Sport.

Bankers from Lazard were appointed to help seal the deal, though discussions are now said to have fallen through.

News UK was reportedly eyeing a commercial partnership rather than a full equity stake.

A spokesperson said: “News UK held an early stage discussion with BT Sport to explore limited, commercial partnership opportunities. It is not pursuing those discussions any further.”

In April BT confirmed it was in talks with major streaming platforms to offload a stake in its television arm as it focuses on its broadband division.

The blue-chip firm is pumping billions into its full-fibre broadband rollout and is looking to reduce its exposure to football rights auctions, which are at risk of increased volatility in the aftermath of the pandemic.

At the time, it was revealed that ITV was an interested party, and that if a deal that centred on sports streaming was done between the two broadcasters, some Premier League and Champions League football could return to terrestrial television.

News UK faces competition from other interested parties, including the likes of international sports streaming business Dazn, which has already done a comparable deal with Telecom Italia, and is reportedly the most keen of the parties to secure a deal quickly.  

Discovery, which owns Eurosport and is the major backer of GB News, is also said to be in the running alongside ITV.

The attempted deal with Murdoch, first reported by the Telegraph, poses more of a surprise, given the press baron’s more limited broadcast business.

But it comes as News UK battles a steady decline in its legacy print business. Losses at The Sun tripled to £200m last year, forcing the group to write down the paper’s value to zero.

Murdoch has been steadily stepping up his broadcast offering through Wireless, the radio group that owns Talk Radio, Talk Sport and Virgin Radio.

His company is also plotting the launch of a streaming-focused news channel, though it has scaled back plans for a full broadcast channel amid the launch of GB News.

BT declined to comment.