BT wins its broadcasting ruck with BSkyB for rugby rights

Media group poaches coverage of Aviva Premiership in four-year £152m deal

BSkyB's attempt to position itself as the television home of rugby union appeared to have been kicked into touch yesterday as BT Vision poached the rights to cover the flagship Aviva Premiership.

In an audacious deal designed to capitalise on England's staging of the Rugby World Cup in 2015, BT Vision is spending £152m to broadcast up to 69 live matches a season. The exclusive four-year deal starts in 2013-2014. The development comes only three months after BT's bold incursion into the world of Premier League football, where it has acquired 38 live games a year for three years from August 2013.

The two deals represent a serious challenge to BSkyB's business strategy, which is strongly linked to the subscriptions the satellite broadcaster sells on the basis of its previously unrivalled sports coverage.

BT's purchase of one of the Premier League football packages is thought to have forced BSkyB to increase its bids for the rest of the rights to defend its position, resulting in the Premier League landing a £3bn bonanza, up 71% on its previous deal. Now Sky, which began its live coverage of Premiership rugby back in 1994, is under pressure in another of its key sports. The BT deal was described as "a game-changing agreement" by Mark McCafferty, chief executive of Premiership Rugby.

BT Vision also has the rights to show European games played by Premiership rugby clubs from the 2014-2015 season for three years. The package also includes the JP Morgan Asset Management Sevens for four seasons from 2013-2014.

BT Vision's big land grab of sporting rights has been overseen by its chief executive Marc Watson who said he was "delighted" with his latest coup. "Rugby union is entering a thrilling phase with the World Cup being staged here in 2015 and rugby returning to the Olympics in 2016," he said. "BT is serious about sport and this deal means we will be offering the very best rugby action alongside some of the most thrilling matches from the Premier League."

BT Vision will screen its rugby and football across a variety of platforms – including mobile devices, online and on cable and satellite TV. Mr McCafferty said the company's position "at the cutting edge of technology" played a part in Premiership Rugby's choice of broadcasting partner. BT Vision has 700,000 subscribers to its television service. In June, it announced plans to set up a devoted football channel to screen its Premier League games.

Sport is central to BSkyB's DNA – the Premier League was launched in 1992, only two years after the satellite broadcast company was founded. Twenty years later, its position is now under threat as never before.

BSkyB's rugby coverage from 2014 will be based on the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup, both European competitions. ITV Sport has the rights to cover the rugby World Cup in 2015 and shows highlights of the Aviva Premiership and the European cup competitions. The BBC still covers the Six Nations international championship.

The BT strategy shows not only the power of sports in offering brand-defining content to media companies but also the attractiveness to rights-holding governing bodies of gaining profile across digital media.

Andrea Radrizzani, group CEO of media sports rights specialists MP & Silva, said: "BT represents a modern multi-platform to offer top sports content and their new deal is yet another demonstration of how fans will increasingly be watching sport through new digital media."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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 Media

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Printing Trainee / Computer Graphics

£8000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have an interest in compu...

Recruitment Genius: Content / Copy Writer

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has bec...

Reach Volunteering: Trustee with experience in science communication

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: The Society for Expe...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible