UK telecoms company BT Group has confirmed that it’s to acquire ESPN’s UK and Ireland TV channels business, including ESPN and ESPN America.
The deal sees BT take on ESPN’s live sports rights package in the UK and Ireland, which includes live football matches from the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League (SPL), UEFA Europa League and German Bundesliga.
BT will take over the rights from July 31 this year and will continue to operate at least one ESPN-branded channel as part of its BT Sport package, which will launch in the summer.
The move gives the telco access to a host of live sports from the US currently aired on ESPN America including college basketball, football and Nascar.
It’s the latest in a string of rights deals secured by BT over the past 12 months as it prepares to launch its own BT Sport channel later this year.
The firm hopes to use live sports rights to boost the number of subscribers in the triple-play market – those taking television, phone and broadband from the same supplier.
BT has paid big money to make its presence felt in a market dominated by satcaster BSkyB for the past two decades.
It has agreed a three-year deal worth £246m a season for 38 live Premier League football games, including several ‘first picks’ which will enable it to screen the best game of the weekend ahead of Sky Sports.
It has also paid £152m for live Rugby Union rights over three years in a controversial deal that has split the sport’s main European competition.
Separately, ESPN has announced that it will wind down the operation of its ESPN Classic channel throughout the EMEA region, and the ESPN America business outside the UK.
ESPN’s demise in the UK has been widely tipped since it was muscled out of the bidding for the crucial live Premier League rights by Sky and BT last year.
Info thanks to ©C21Media