I do not normally like to over-egg things. But: two words, one meaning. They promised it, today it appears is their first step in delivering. BT Sport have won exclusive rights for every UEFA Champions League and every UEFA Europa League match from 2015.
Why is this such a big deal? Simply because BT has just taken one of Sky Sports’ crown jewels, which they have covered for nearly two decades. It is also sad news for ITV, but it does not mean that the Champions League is leaving free to air television. As the press release notes:
BT has shaken up the UK TV market with BT Sport and it today pledged to make its new matches far more accessible and affordable for fans who wish to enjoy all the action. It also announced it will show a selection of these new matches for free on BT Sport, even to homes that have not signed up to the channels.
The finals of each tournament will be showcased in this fashion along with a selection of top matches from earlier rounds. Fans will also be delighted to know that each participating British team will feature for free at least once each season.
So some matches will still be free to air. This is a huge victory for BT Sport, absolutely huge, and leaves a significant gaping hole in Sky Sports’ mid-week schedules.
I also believe that this deal shows too how, in hindsight, the Formula 1 deal being renegotiated back in 2011 may not be so bad, after all. Had BBC continued to shown Formula 1 exclusively until the end of 2013, then I feel BT Sport may well have come along, put in a £100 million+ deal and taken the lot, which would have been frankly disastrous news for the sport. At least now sitting here we can say that the Formula 1 rights are locked in until the end of the 2018 season.
It is way too early to start discussing beyond then, given how volatile the market is at the moment. It will be late 2015 at the earliest I feel before any talks begin. Either way, I imagine Sky and BBC are very glad back in 2011 that they both agreed a seven year deal. Had that deal been only three or four years, then again, BT may well have taken the lot – again, an identical scenario to the previous paragraph!
Either way, the news today for me confirms that BT are here to stay and are definitely prepared to throw the kitchen sink in terms of money at getting the rights they need to launch an onslaught. Is today’s news game changing? I think it is…