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BT outbids ESPN to Premier League rights, Sky gets 116 games

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Premier league logo
BT has outbid ESPN to the live rights to 38 Premier League games, while Sky has picked up the remaining 116 matches in the £3 billion auction.

Media companies have been bidding for the UK television and digital rights to 154 Premier League games a season running from 2013/14 to 2015/16 - 16 more per season than currently broadcast.

Sky has maintained its position as the leading broadcaster of the league, after agreeing to pay £760m per annum for five packs totalling 116 live matches.

However, stiff competition for the rights has significantly pushed the price up for Sky, from the current level of £541m per season.

Sky will now have to pay a staggering £6.6m for each live game, up from £4.7m.

Overall, the Premier League has sold its television rights for £3bn, a staggering increase over the current deal value of £1.7bn, and providing a big windfall for clubs in the league.

But it is the arrival of BT that has caused most surprise, after the telecoms giant picked up two packs of rights - one of 26 matches and one of 12 games.

ESPN currently has 23 games per season, after it picked up the rights previously held by Setanta UK in 2009 following the sports broadcaster's collapse with massive debts.

BT offers Premier League action to its customers via the ESPN and Sky Sports channels on the BT Vision platform, but becoming a broadcaster is a totally different proposition.

A rumoured bid from Al-Jazeera for the rights never materialised, or at least was not successful.

The deal puts the future of ESPN's main channel in doubt, as the broadcaster has just one season remaining of Premier League coverage. After that, it could see a big drop in subscriber numbers.

Sky logo
Telecoms giant BT has long been rumoured as a potentially serious competitor to Sky, and this investment appears to suggest big plans ahead for the firm.

BT has agreed to pay £246m per season for the rights, which include 18 first picks, around half of those available.

The company said that it will launch a "football-focused channel" to carry the matches, offering "new interactive features when supplied over BT's fibre network".

Details and pricing will be published "in due course", said BT, and it also intends to secure distribution on other platforms, presumably including Virgin Media and Sky.

"We are pleased to have won these rights and to have secured around half of the best games on offer each season. We look forward to offering football fans real value and great quality using the latest technology," said BT chief executive Ian Livingstone.

"BT is already investing £2.5bn in fibre broadband. Securing Premier League rights fits naturally with this, as consumers increasingly want to buy their broadband and entertainment services from a single provider."

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore added: "We welcome BT as a new Premier League broadcast partner. They are a substantial British company that is at the leading edge of technology and infra-structure development.

"They are clearly investing in quality content to use on their platforms and when combined with the reach and pull of Premier League football they will deliver new ways in which fans will be able to follow the competition."

BT / British Telecom logo
He added: "These are exciting times for both the football and media worlds and we should all be proud of the value both industries contribute to the UK culturally and economically.

"I would also like to place on record the Premier League's thanks to the numerous other highly credible bidders that showed such interest in the live UK rights."

Sky's live match allocation includes 38 Saturday 5.30pm kickoffs, 26 1.30pm kickoffs on Sundays, 26 Sunday at 4pm kickoffs, and a further 26 matches that will be "mainly Monday 8.30pm kickoffs.

The broadcaster said that it has been awarded the rights across all platforms, including satellite, cable, IPTV, online and mobile - meaning customers will be able to access the Sky Sports coverage on Sky Go across multiple devices, such as laptops and smartphones.

Sky also intends to offer Premier League games on its new internet-delivered, pay-as-you-watch service called NOW TV, which launches later in the year.

Jeremy Darroch, the chief executive of Sky, said: "We have never offered greater depth and breadth of coverage on Sky Sports, with unprecedented live action right across the schedule.

"At the same time we're pushing ahead with more original British content, extending our leadership as the UK's favourite triple play provider, and launching our new internet TV service, NOW TV, which will give us even more ways to distribute our content."

Darroch noted that competition for the rights has pushed the price up, but he is confident that it will not prevent Sky from delivering its financial plans.

"In what was a very competitive tender process, we are pleased to have secured the combination of rights that we wanted, providing certainty for us and our customers," he said.

"Whilst the cost is higher, we have capacity for this increase through the combination of excellent work on cost efficiency across the business and choices over other future spending.

"As a result, we remain confident of delivering our financial plans, in line with our expectations, unchanged, in each year of the new deal."

Scudamore added: "The continuing support of BSkyB for Premier League football is significant beyond the revenues delivered; the longevity and quality of their commitment has done much for the English game as a whole. We are very happy to see this relationship maintained for another three seasons."

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