News Corp's U.K. Newspaper Unit Wins Digital Clips Rights for English Cup Soccer

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LONDON – The landscape for British soccer rights continues to evolve as the BBC, telecom giant BT, pay TV operator BSkyB and the U.K. arm of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper company divide up various rights after deals for English cup matches were unveiled Wednesday.

Murdoch's News U.K. sealed a deal to make it the exclusive place for online and mobile clips of all FA Cup and some other games soon after the matches end. The company previously struck a deal for English Premier League soccer games across its digital platforms for tabloid The Sun, the Times of London and the Sunday Times.

News U.K. CEO Mike Darcey described the extensive clip deal as a "significant enhancement of our sports offering to all our readers." Added Darcey: "Compelling content is at the heart of the distinct offering, which will help News U.K. deliver its goal of securing a sustainable future for our world-class journalism."

Financial details weren't disclosed.

Meanwhile, U.K. public broadcaster BBC has inked a deal for rights to the FA Cup competition, previously held by commercial network ITV, with current co-holder and telecom giant BT retaining the other rights. Their deal covers the years 2014-18. Financial details weren't disclosed.

BT, which has been in a rivalry with U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB, in which Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, is using the deal to add to its sports programming as it continues to up the competitive ante in the sports rights arena.

The Football Association, marking its 150th anniversary, unveiled the BBC/BT deal at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.

It will mark the return of soccer club cup competition to BBC One. BBC director general Tony Hall said bringing the FA Cup back to the BBC "was something I really wanted to do, and I am so pleased that we have achieved it for football fans everywhere." 

Hall noted: “The Olympics, Wimbledon and Glastonbury have shown how our audiences love it when we put the full weight of all our services on TV, radio and digital behind covering these events in depth and in ways no one else can."

BT retail CEO Gavin Patterson said: “BT Sport made a determined joint bid to retain the FA Cup rights, because we believe it is one of the truly great club football competitions."

Freshly anointed FA chairman and former BBC boss Greg Dyke said the BBC's and BT Sport's support of the cup competition underlines the value to British viewers.

"ITV has done a tremendous job in recent years, and we look forward to their fantastic continued support of the England team," Dyke said. "The BBC is obviously an organization I know very well, but I don’t think anyone would dispute that their name goes hand in hand with some of the most famous FA Cup moments of yesteryear. We’re delighted that the competition is back on their channels, not just through television but with significant online presence as well."

The dealmaking follows BT Sport's headline-grabbing move to dip its toe into Premier League soccer rights in competition with BSkyB and other high-profile sports to offer games for free to its broadband subscribers.

Sports content has long been a subscriber driver for BSkyB.

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