BT Group Plc (LON:BT.A) has secured the broadcast rights to the Premier League as a three-year deal with the football league has been ‘rolled over’.
The Premier League has similarly extended all its UK rights with Sky, BT, and Amazon Prime retaining the packages they picked up in a prior deal worth £5bn for three years, from 2019 to 2022.
As a result of the extension, covering seasons from 2022 to 2025, sees the telecoms firm retain its exclusive rights at a time when its exploring its options, with media reports recently linking it to talks with the likes of DAZN, Amazon Prime, Disney and ITV.
BT is unable to confirm the exact cost of renewal, due to confidentiality terms, but said the price “reflect current market conditions and are in line with current market expectations”.
With the business of football presently under the spotlight the Premier League, effectively run by the owners of the league’s clubs, have evidently taken a low-key and lower-risk option as its TV rights neared expiry.
On the surface the decision to ‘roll-over’ the existing broadcast deal would appear innocuous enough, though there are a couple of key points to note.
First, the price of football broadcasting normally goes up whenever the league auctions off the rights but instead the league has opted against testing the market.
It says something about the sentiments in the game presently but in time could perhaps be seen as a missed opportunity, assuming the often-speculated interest of streaming companies is indeed loitering on the outside looking for a way in.
Secondly, its not actually the same deal that the broadcaster previously bought.
Between Sky, BT and Amazon Primer every Premier League fixture is now broadcast live in the UK amidst the pandemic and games behind closed doors – there’s an awful lot more coverage and content.
The extension also comes with a pledge of a £100mln package of ‘solidarity payments’ to the lower tiers of the English football pyramid.
For BT specifically, it secures one of the crown jewels in its rights portfolio at a time when the sports broadcasting business is, reportedly, up for sale.
BT in April confirmed it is in early stage talks with potential investors in its sports broadcasting business as it seeks to focus on its core broadband and telecoms businesses.
Investment bank Lazard was hired, according to a report in the Financial Times, which added that initial talks have taken place with DAZN, Amazon, Disney and private equity. Potential deals suggested by the FT include a full sale, a stake sale, or new joint ventures and partnerships.
In a brief statement to the media, on Thursday, BT noted that as a result of the extension its customers will continue to have access to the Premier League alongside the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League exclusively live on BT Sport.
It’s a message to subscribers, but the same message will be heard by possible buyers of the BT Sports business.