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U.K.'s Channel 4 to Sell Ads for BT Sports Channels

Aviva rugby - H 2012

The telecom giant is looking for the broadcaster to bring in ad revenue for two new networks and Britain's ESPN, which BT recently agreed to buy.

LONDON -- U.K. telecom giant and pay TV service operator BT has inked a three-year exclusive deal with broadcaster Channel 4 to partner on advertising sales for its group of sports networks.

BT recently agreed to acquire most of ESPN's U.K. channels and is set to launch BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 2 this year to compete with pay TV giant BSkyB in the field of sports programming.

Channel 4 emerged with the ad sales contract, believed to be worth around $47 million (£30 million) and up to $62 million (£40 million) if the BT Vision pay TV service hits certain subscriber growth targets, after a competitive tender process. Observers said it included Channel 5 and even BSkyB.

BT said the broadcaster's experience in third-party ad sales for brands such as UKTV, Box TV and PBS America helped it win the contract.

In addition to placing TV ads around the BT Sport programs, which include 38 exclusive live Barclays English Premier League soccer matches, Channel 4 will be charged with looking for program sponsorships and will "explore opportunities for product placement." Marc Watson, CEO of TV, BT Retail, described BT and Channel 4 as a "great fit."

Jonathan Allan, director of sales at Channel 4, said: "Alongside the Channel 4 portfolio, UKTV, Box and PBS, the addition of BT’s premium sports content gives us an unrivaled ability to target young and up-market audiences."

BT Sport has also secured the rights to live top-tier matches from Serie A soccer in Italy, Ligue 1 soccer in France, Brasileiro in Brazil and Major League Soccer in the U.S. BT Sport will also show exclusive coverage of all 69 live rugby union games from the Aviva Premiership.

Plus, BT’s acquisition of ESPN’s TV business in the U.K. and Ireland will bring the rights to show live games for the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League, Europa League and the German Bundesliga.

The BT Sport channels will be based at the iCITY development at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford in Eastern London.

BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch said earlier on Thursday during his company's latest earnings conference call that he felt Sky Sports was well positioned ahead of the launch of the BT sports networks.