Sky Retains Most English Soccer TV Rights in Deal Worth $7.8 Billion Overall

Machester United Liverpool English Premiere League - H 2014
AP Photo/Jon Super

Telecom giant BT won two of seven packages, while Discovery and its Eurosport were also believed to have been looking at the rights.

Longtime rights holder Sky has won five of seven TV rights packages for soccer games in the English Premier League, with BT, formerly known as British Telecom, also continuing as a holder of rights. 

Discovery Communications and its Eurosport network were also believed to have been in the running for the rights, but didn't end up with any packages. It wasn't clear if Discovery had not submitted a final bid or had been bidding cautiously as it had signaled it would remain financially disciplined in any sports rights auctions.

The value of the three-season rights deal agreed to by Sky and BT is $7.84 billion (5.136 billion pounds).

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The EPL announced the winners of the TV rights deals late on Tuesday. BT will retain two packages with 42 matches per season for $1.46 billion, starting with the 2016/2017 season, while Sky will have the rights to 126 games per season for $6.37 billion.

The previous three-season deal saw Sky, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake and which recently expanded from BSkyB in Britain to acquire Fox's Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia, pay $3.55 billion in 2012 for 116 live matches, with BT picking up the other 38 for $1.1 billion. This time, the league made more matches available.

The last deal exceeded expectations by seeing the overall price tag rise 70 percent. The latest increase amounts to about the same percentage.

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The latest deal confirms the EPL as the most valuable domestic soccer competition in the world.

Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch declined to comment on his company's strategy in the auction. His team had signaled that the soccer rights are important for Sky, but also aren't the pay TV giant's main content offer.

"As a global media company, Discovery evaluates many opportunities — from media assets to sports rights — but we do not act on everything," a Discovery representative said. "We remain disciplined and focused on investments that will drive long-term value for our worldwide businesses. The Premier League is a fantastic property with widespread popularity around the globe, so we have the advantage of being able to pursue all types of partnerships with them ... beyond any single market … and we look forward to continuing those discussions."

Said Darroch: "This is a good result and confirms that Sky is the unrivaled choice for sports fans. We went into the Premier League auction with a clear objective and are pleased to have secured the rights that we wanted. Our strong performance across the board gives us financial strength and flexibility. We have a clear plan to absorb the cost of the new Premier League deal while delivering our financial plans."

Twitter: @georgszalai