Thanks a billion ... body blow for Sky as BT lands Champions League

Offering around £200m more than the satellite broadcaster will hardly cause a dent in its annual results

The football world was stunned by the news yesterday that BT had spent almost £1bn on a deal to snatch coverage of the prestigious Uefa Champions League from rival broadcaster BSkyB.

Uefa accepted the telecoms giant's huge offer of £299m per season for exclusive live rights to screen both the Champions League and the Europa League for three seasons starting in 2015-16.

The bid by BT's fledgling sports arm, BT Sport, which has been on air for only 14 weeks, so comprehensively trounced its rivals – by around £200m – that the tender process did not go to a second round. Sky, which holds current UK rights to the Champions League jointly with ITV, pays Uefa some £80m a season and is believed to have offered £500m in the three-year tender. ITV, which has been paying £55m a season, was prepared to contribute a further £188m over three years.

Such was the scale of BT's £897m outlay that it felt the need to point out in its statement that the company's recent annual results meant that £299m a year was a cost it could "incur without changing its current financial outlook". BT Group reported revenues of £18.1bn for the year ended March 2013 with reported profits before tax of £2.3bn.

The deal will give BT Sport coverage of 350 games across the two tournaments and will make the service "the natural home for football fans", it claimed.

Loss of the Champions League is a body blow for BSkyB, which has used football as a driver of subscriptions for more than 20 years and had been desperate to retain the flagship European competition. In its statement, Sky made clear that it felt BT had overpaid. "We bid with a clear view of what the rights are worth to us. It seems BT chose to pay far in excess of our valuation," it said. "We take a disciplined approach and there is always a level at which we will choose to focus on something else. If we thought it was worth more, we'd have paid more."

The IoS understands nonetheless that BSkyB, when confronted with likely failure, sought unsuccessfully to enter a fresh bid.

ITV will now bid for a Champions League highlights package. "ITV is proud to have been the UK free-to-air broadcaster of the Champions League, since it launched in 1992, and of the Europa League. But we were not prepared to pay over the odds in the latest live rights round," it said. ITV will instead invest more in drama and entertainment.

John Petter, head of BT's consumer division, defended the deal. He told The IoS: "To get all the games today, you have to pay £40-plus per month. We are not announcing our pricing today, but the plan would be to make games much more affordable and accessible."

He said that the deal firmly underlined BT's long-term commitment to sports broadcasting. "The line has been put about that it's a marketing gimmick – we have demonstrated comprehensively that it's not true."

The finals of both tournaments will be made available for free, he said, with at least one European game from every British team in the competitions also offered free-to-air. But viewers who have become used to seeing key fixtures on ITV will now have to pay.

The former head of BBC Sport Roger Mosey expressed concern that more events might be bought up by pay TV. "The BT vs Sky scrap, and all the massive inflation in sports rights, makes it even more important that listed events remain free-to-air for all," he said.

The deal represents something of a risk to Uefa, turning away from audiences approaching 10 million in favour of BT's money. But Uefa officials are said to have been impressed with BT Sport's coverage of the Europa League this season. BT Sport also covers Germany's Bundesliga, France's Ligue1 and Italy's Serie A.

Guy-Laurent Epstein, Uefa's events marketing director, said: "Uefa is delighted to welcome newcomer BT Sport to the family of Uefa Champions League rights holders. Since its launch in the summer, BT Sport has been Uefa's partner for the Uefa Europa League and has demonstrated its ability to deliver premium sports coverage."

Sky can only console itself by having more money to spend on other things. "We will now redeploy resources and continue to bring customers the best choice of TV across our offering," it said.

The cash-rich satellite broadcaster has a reputation for seizing sports rights from more hard-pressed terrestrial broadcasting rivals. It paid £2.3bn for the lion's share of Premier League rights for the three seasons from 2013-2014, with BT paying £738m for a smaller package.

The BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said the European rights deal would encourage Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive, to believe the English league could become richer still.

"The next Premier League deal will be interesting," said Lineker. "Probably much lip licking in the Scudamore abode this morning."

Suggested Topics
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Derivatives Risk Commodities Business Analyst /Market Risk

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Derivatives Risk Commodities Business A...

Power & Gas Business Analyst / Subject Matter Expert - Contract

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Power & Gas Business Analyst/Subject Ma...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering