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The U.K. and Ireland sports joint venture of Warner Bros. Discovery and telecom giant BT Group has unveiled TNT Sports as the name for the premium sports brand that it will launch later this year to bring together the partners’ collection of sports rights under one service.
In July, shortly before the start of 2023/2024 soccer season, TNT Sports will replace the BT Sport name, with the renamed service continuing to present the live sports rights carried by BT Sport today. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Discovery’s Eurosport in the U.K and Ireland “will continue to be available in the same way as it is today before being rolled into the new brand at some time in the future” after talks with its distribution partners.
Also before the start of the soccer season though, “Discovery+ will become the streaming home for sports fans who can enjoy a subscription that includes TNT Sports, Eurosport and entertainment in one destination,” the joint venture partners highlighted. “BT Sport subscribers already enjoy complimentary access to Discovery+, which includes Eurosport’s streaming offer and wide range of entertainment programming.”
The unveiling of the new brand name is “another important step towards the launch of a simpler and even more compelling offering for sports fans in the U.K. and Ireland,” said Andrew Georgiou, board member of the joint venture and president and managing Director, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe. “The TNT Sports name is already synonymous with premium live sport in a number of countries around the world and a further sign of the global scale and expertise that Warner Bros. Discovery brings to its partnership with BT.”
Marc Allera, CEO BT consumer division and chairman of the joint venture, said: “We’re delighted with the progress being made on the joint venture. This change marks the next logical step for BT Sport, as well as the broader transformation of our consumer business. Once launched this will become a hugely exciting new premium sports offering for customers in the U.K. and Ireland.”
The TNT Sports brand wants to reflect “the fan-first approach for which BT Sport has become renowned,” but “the name already has a strong association with premium live sport in other territories and under Warner Bros. Discovery’s family of brands,” the venture partners said. “This includes being home to top-level domestic and European football in a number of countries in Latin America, while live sport has been a longtime staple on the TNT network in the U.S, including the NBA, NHL and NCAA.”
Talking to reporters on Tuesday, Allera emphasized one key goal of the rebranding process. “The thing we want to ensure is minimal customer disruption and maximum excitement,” he said.
Georgiou told reporters about the key thoughts behind the decision to go with the TNT Sports name. “The new brand has to honor the essence of what BT Sport and Eurosport have built in this market,” he explained. “BT Sport in particular, because it has content which is more broadly engaging to the audience here, it has got a broader content proposition. They speak to a large number of local consumers and making sure we don’t lose that was the number one priority. The second part is the brand has to be flexible enough to capture both portfolios. It has to signify an expansion and … change. And the third criterion was that it has to be local. So making sure that there was a clean slate, if you like, for what this is was an important part of the decision-making process.”
For Warner Bros. Discovery, the TNT Sports brand fits into its focus on running a global business. “We are a global content and entertainment business, and we are, through the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, thinking about our business globally and what global scale, strength and capability can bring.” Georgiou also mentioned: “We think there is some value in having global consistency around a sports brand that is synonymous with sports, and premium sports in particular.”
But he also highlighted that right now the TNT Sports name is still little known in Britain and Ireland. “Based on the surveys that we have done in this market, this brand has limited awareness. No one in this market actually knows what this brand means,” he explained, but described this as an opportunity. “This is a clean slate. There are people in the industry who might know the heritage of what the letters TNT stand for or what TNT means in the U.S. or Latin America, but the British and Irish consumer has no clue. So for them, this is a clean slate, and having that clean slate for us means being able to make sure we can imbue this brand over time with some of those brand principles that I talked about.”
Bringing together two content portfolios, TNT Sports will “provide one of the most extensive lineups of live sports coverage for fans in the U.K. and Ireland, including the Olympic Games, the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, Premiership Rugby, MotoGP, UFC, Boxing, WWE, tennis Grand Slams, cycling Grand Tours and the winter sports season,” the partners said.
The 50:50 BT and Warner Bros. Discovery joint venture was formed on Sept. 1. Warner Bros. Discovery manages its operation, with the production and operational assets of BT Sport having transferred to the venture on this date.
“The clean slate promises to simplify the overall sports experience for fans in the long term,” PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore said about the branding update. But he noted the “numerous challenges in the short term of managing a multi-brand strategy, which the new joint venture is fully aware of and will need to navigate carefully.”
He also warned: “Initially, there will be resentment as it will feel like another sports brand entering the U.K. market in an increasingly fragmented world. During a cost of living crisis, this might give people a reason to cancel. Hence all focus must be placed on positioning and adding greater value for sports fans as part of the Discovery+ umbrella. Undoubtedly there will be bumps in the journey. Maintaining key sports rights will remain ever so important to help during this transition for the next couple of years.”
Addressing the division of labor between the venture partners, Pescatore said: “Make no mistake: Warner Bros. Discovery is driving the entity as BT takes another step closer towards distancing itself from the sports business.”
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