U.K. Telecom Giant BT Outbids BSkyB, ITV for European Soccer Rights

In a $1.4 billion deal, it gets TV rights to Champions League and Europa League matches starting with the 2015/2016 season.

U.K. telecom giant BT has won the TV rights to European soccer tournament Champions League for three years, outbidding current rightsholders BSkyB and ITV.

British media reports put the price tag at $1.44 billion (£900 million).

BT won the right to air all 350 games in the Champions League and the UEFA Europa League starting in 2015/2016, marking the first time that a single U.K. TV provider has won all of these rights.

BT's BT Sport networks have aggressively competed with BSkyB, winning in the past rights to English Premier League soccer games, matches from Germany’s Bundesliga, as well as France’s Ligue1 and Italy’s Serie A.

Ahead of Saturday's announcement, UBS analyst Polo Tang had said that "were BT to win part of the Champions League rights, we believe this would be negative for sentiment for both stocks" – BSkyB and BT. After all, "investors worry about rising content costs and increased competition," he explained.

Said BT CEO Gavin Patterson: “I am thrilled that BT Sport will be the only place where fans can enjoy all the live action from the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Both tournaments are world class and firm favorites with many. The live rights will give a major boost to BT Sport and give people yet another reason to take our terrific service.”

“We bid with a clear view of what the rights are worth to us," BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, said in a statement. "It seems BT chose to pay far in excess of our valuation."

It added: "There are many ways, in which we can invest in our service for customers. We take a disciplined approach, and there is always a level at which we will choose to focus on something else. If we thought it was worth more, we’d have paid more."

Added BSkyB: "We look forward to 18 more months of live Champions League on Sky Sports. We will now re-deploy resources and continue to bring customers the best choice of TV across our offering.”

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai