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Category: BT

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Sky and BT will ‘lose £1bn if sporting events stay shut until August’

Report recommends footballers take a pay cut to support clubs facing loss of revenue Sky and BT will lose almost £1bn in revenue if top-flight sport remains shut down until August, according to a report that recommends players take a pay cut to support…

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BT to let sport fans buy monthly pass to watch matches for first time

Firm acknowledges consumers’ preference for Netflix-type flexibility over long-term dealsBT is to launch a monthly pass allowing sport fans to watch content including Premier League and Champions League football without a contract for the first time, a…

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BT chief: We don’t need Premier League rights

Gavin Patterson says firm has ‘Plan B’ if price for live football coverage goes beyond top bidBT does not need exclusive Premier League games and has a “Plan B” if the company misses out in the upcoming £6bn TV rights auction, the chief executive has s…

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BT and Sky sign landmark content-sharing deal

Sky Atlantic blockbusters and BT premium sports channels will be available to subscribers without them having to switch providers BT customers are to get access to all of Sky’s sport and entertainment channels, including Game of Thrones for the first t…

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BT denies squeezing customers after paying £1.2bn for Champions League

Telecom firm retains exclusive rights by paying three times the sum Sky and ITV were paying to broadcast the football competition until 2014-15 season

BT has denied customers are being forced to foot the bill for a new £1.2bn Champions League football rights deal after securing the contract in the wake of inflation-busting price rises for its broadband and phone services.

The group has paid £1.18bn to fend off Sky and renew exclusive broadcast rights for Champions League and Europa League football. The deal which runs from 2018 to 2021, represents a 32% increase on the cost of its current three-year contract.

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BT Sport to charge for top-flight European football from August

Broadcaster says customers will pay £5 per month for full coverage of Champions and Europa League matches unless they sign up for pay-TV bundle

BT Sport has recruited Gary Lineker and Steven Gerrard to its on-screen team and announced it would start charging for top-flight European football from August.

Set up to “give sport back to the people”, BT Sport will charge customers £5 per month for full coverage of Champions League and Europa League matches unless they sign up for pay-TV package.

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BT Sport to charge for top-flight European football from August

Broadcaster says customers will pay £5 per month for full coverage of Champions and Europa League matches unless they sign up for pay-TV bundle

BT Sport has recruited Gary Lineker and Steven Gerrard to its on-screen team and announced it would start charging for top-flight European football from August.

Set up to “give sport back to the people”, BT Sport will charge customers £5 per month for full coverage of Champions League and Europa League matches unless they sign up for pay-TV package.

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Premier League big winner again as TV rivals vie for live football rights

Fierce competition between Sky, BT and possibly Discovery and BeInSport means bid process is likely to run into next week

Not a ball will be kicked, but for the chief executive of the Premier League, Richard Scudamore, Friday is the biggest day of the season, when he will tear open rival bids from media giants vying for the league’s multibillion-pound live TV rights.

For the executives from Sky and BT bidding in a high-stakes auction expected to easily top the current £5.5bn deal, there are likely to be a few sleepless nights. The competition is expected to be so fierce that there will be no outright winner from the first round of bidding and the process will tip into next week.

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The real Premier League rivalry kicks off: Sky Sports v BT Sport

Sky has a game on its hands as BT poaches viewers but it is the telecom giant’s broadband strategy that’s hit the back of the net Continue reading…

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The real Premier League rivalry kicks off: Sky Sports v BT Sport

Sky has a game on its hands as BT poaches viewers but it is the telecom giant’s broadband strategy that’s hit the back of the net Continue reading…

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BT wins court battle forcing review of Sky wholesale pricing decision

Court says tribunal should re-examine whether BSkyB should be forced to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 to rivals at a discount

BT has won a court battle to force the competition tribunal to re-examine its decision to stop BSkyB being forced to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 to rivals at a discount.

In summer 2012 the Competition Appeal Tribunal handed down a scathing judgment concluding that the basis of media regulator Ofcom’s decision to force BSkyB to cut the amount it charges rivals to air Sky Sports was “unfounded”.

BT challenged this decision and on Monday the court of appeal handed down a judgment forcing the CAT to reopen the issue.

Lord Justice Aikens said that the CAT failed to properly investigate the issue the level of discounts that BSkyB claimed it gave rivals on the ratecard price for its sports channels.

“There remain significant, independent, competition concerns based on the rate-card price and penetration discount, as found by Ofcom,” said Aikens. “The reasons that the CAT gave for not considering that matter further were inadequate. I would propose that the matter be remitted to the CAT for further consideration in order that further findings and conclusions may be made in the light of this judgment.”

Ofcom proposed to introduce a new pricing structure in March 2010, which would have made Sky Sports 1 and 2 up to 23% cheaper than the previous wholesale price, after determining that BSkyB was abusing its power in the market.

“We are glad that this issue will now be considered afresh and are hopeful that the outcome will finally deliver increased competition in pay-TV which would be in the best interests of consumers,” said a spokeswoman for BT. “Ofcom was correct to impose the wholesale must offer (‘WMO’) on Sky and this remains essential to address the significant competition concerns with Sky’s supply of its channels.”

BT said that it is still unable to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 on YouView, the TV service it is banking on building it into a major pay-TV player.

“Sky’s refusal to offer access to these channels on reasonable terms causes serious harm to consumers and must be resolved urgently,” said BT.

A spokesman for Ofcom, which had its reputation battered by the CAT’s original decision, said that it welcomed the decision.

“Ofcom welcomes the court of appeal’s decision that the judgment of the Competition Appeal Tribunal failed properly to consider Ofcom’s findings that there was ineffective competition in the market,” a spokesman said. “Ensuring fair and effective competition in the pay-TV market has always been Ofcom’s objective. Ofcom’s 2010 decision that Sky must offer premium sports channels to other providers was designed to deliver choice and innovation to consumers through greater competition.”

Sky said in a statement: “This does not alter in any way the CAT’s fundamental findings, overturning Ofcom, that Sky engaged constructively with other distributors over the supply of its premium sports channels, and that Virgin Media is able to compete effectively with Sky on the basis of Sky’s rate card prices.

“Sky continues to believe that Ofcom’s 2010 decision is flawed and that the WMO obligation ought properly to be removed, and will continue to pursue all available options to achieve this aim.”

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BT wins court battle forcing review of Sky wholesale pricing decision

Court says tribunal should re-examine whether BSkyB should be forced to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 to rivals at a discount

BT has won a court battle to force the competition tribunal to re-examine its decision to stop BSkyB being forced to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 to rivals at a discount.

In summer 2012 the Competition Appeal Tribunal handed down a scathing judgment concluding that the basis of media regulator Ofcom’s decision to force BSkyB to cut the amount it charges rivals to air Sky Sports was “unfounded”.

BT challenged this decision and on Monday the court of appeal handed down a judgment forcing the CAT to reopen the issue.

Lord Justice Aikens said that the CAT failed to properly investigate the issue the level of discounts that BSkyB claimed it gave rivals on the ratecard price for its sports channels.

“There remain significant, independent, competition concerns based on the rate-card price and penetration discount, as found by Ofcom,” said Aikens. “The reasons that the CAT gave for not considering that matter further were inadequate. I would propose that the matter be remitted to the CAT for further consideration in order that further findings and conclusions may be made in the light of this judgment.”

Ofcom proposed to introduce a new pricing structure in March 2010, which would have made Sky Sports 1 and 2 up to 23% cheaper than the previous wholesale price, after determining that BSkyB was abusing its power in the market.

“We are glad that this issue will now be considered afresh and are hopeful that the outcome will finally deliver increased competition in pay-TV which would be in the best interests of consumers,” said a spokeswoman for BT. “Ofcom was correct to impose the wholesale must offer (‘WMO’) on Sky and this remains essential to address the significant competition concerns with Sky’s supply of its channels.”

BT said that it is still unable to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 on YouView, the TV service it is banking on building it into a major pay-TV player.

“Sky’s refusal to offer access to these channels on reasonable terms causes serious harm to consumers and must be resolved urgently,” said BT.

A spokesman for Ofcom, which had its reputation battered by the CAT’s original decision, said that it welcomed the decision.

“Ofcom welcomes the court of appeal’s decision that the judgment of the Competition Appeal Tribunal failed properly to consider Ofcom’s findings that there was ineffective competition in the market,” a spokesman said. “Ensuring fair and effective competition in the pay-TV market has always been Ofcom’s objective. Ofcom’s 2010 decision that Sky must offer premium sports channels to other providers was designed to deliver choice and innovation to consumers through greater competition.”

Sky said in a statement: “This does not alter in any way the CAT’s fundamental findings, overturning Ofcom, that Sky engaged constructively with other distributors over the supply of its premium sports channels, and that Virgin Media is able to compete effectively with Sky on the basis of Sky’s rate card prices.

“Sky continues to believe that Ofcom’s 2010 decision is flawed and that the WMO obligation ought properly to be removed, and will continue to pursue all available options to achieve this aim.”

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email media@theguardian.com or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook.

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BSkyB signs new five-year deal for exclusive rights to HBO TV catalogue

Broadcaster struck early to secure wide-ranging two-pronged deal with HBO and head off threat from rival BT

BSkyB has signed a five-year deal for the exclusive rights to the entire HBO TV catalogue, which includes top American shows such as Girls and Game of Thrones, in a move that heads off a threat from arch-rival BT to enter the entertainment and film market.

BSkyB has struck early to extend its existing agreement out to 2020 in a deal worth as much as £275m over five years.

Deep-pocketed BT has so far spent billions of pounds snapping up prime TV sports rights, including Premier League and Champions League football as well as Premiership Rugby, with industry observers suggesting that BSkyB’s stranglehold on film and entertainment rights could be the next flashpoint.

Rupert Murdoch’s satellite TV company has moved quickly to secure a wide-ranging two-pronged deal with HBO, which revolutionised the TV market by investing in big budget dramas such as The Wire and The Sopranos. BSkyB airs the HBO catalogue on its heavily-promoted Sky Atlantic channel.

In addition BSkyB has also reached an exclusive agreement to co-fund and co-produce top-end dramas, of the scale of the multi-million pound per episode Game of Thrones, that could run to tens of millions of pounds investment in new shows per year.

The chief executive of BSkyB, Jeremy Darroch, said: “HBO is synonymous with must-see TV. Original production is the natural next step and we are enormously excited at the prospect of working together to realise our shared vision for epic drama of a truly spectacular scale.”

The deal makes BSkyB the exclusive partner for HBO, which has previously co-produced popular dramas such as the BBC’s Parade’s End, with the rights to exclusively air the programmes developed in the UK market.

While Sky is perhaps best known for its multi-billion pound annual investment in football rights, it is also a significant investor in original British productions, such as the Daniel Radcliffe comedy A Young Doctor’s Notebook and Stella, to the tune of £600m a year.

The scale of the deal, estimated at potentially £275m in total across five years, is less than the value of one-year of the £900m deal BT struck to snatch the Champions League TV rights from Sky.

BSkyB is expected on Thursday to report a drop in profits of as much as 8% for the six months to the end of December, as investment in new services and costs in its Premier League battle with BT takes its toll.

Investors will be closely watching the company’s churn, the rate at which customers leave Sky, to see if BT’s big money move into pay-TV is significantly damaging its customer base.

The HBO deal is part of a concerted effort by BSkyB to continue to build the quality of its non-sport programming, to create more “must have” pillars to keep a grip on, and grow, its 10 million-plus subscriber base.

BSkyB spends £2.5bn a year on programming, with the majority directed at the spiralling cost of football rights, with the Premier League expected to kick off the bidding war for the next three-year rights deal later this year.

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London Olympics commercial boss to take on BDUK rural broadband project

Culture secretary Maria Miller has handed control of the ‘mismanaged’ £790m government project to Chris Townsend

Culture secretary Maria Miller has handed control of the government’s troubled £790m rural broadband project, BDUK, to the commercial director for the London Olympic Games.

Chris Townsend, who held commercial roles at Transport for London and BSkyB before joining the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog), will replace civil servant Robert Sullivan at the head of BDUK on 1 April.

Sullivan’s job was advertised in October, a month after the BDUK project to expand superfast broadband to rural areas was slammed as “mismanaged” by MPs following a parliamentary investigation. MPs and government auditors said the rural project was nearly two years behind schedule, with the taxpayer likely to bear a larger share of the costs than originally planned

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which houses the BDUK team, said its remit was being expanded. He added: “Maria Miller was very keen that someone with commercial experience was brought in to oversee the next stage of the rollout, which is why the position was advertised.”

Local councils are using £1.2 billion in central and local government funds to award contracts for building fibre newtorks in rural areas, and despite competition from big firms such as Japan’s Fujitsu, BT has won every BDUK contract awarded so far.

Townsend has a track record in raising funds for public projects from the private sector. As commercial director of Locog, he raised £2.4 billion from sponsorship, ticket sales and merchandise to fund the games.

At Transport for London in 2006, he secured £1.5bn from Viacom in exchange for control of all poster sites on the tube, increasing revenues from the advertising contract from £30m a year to £100m.

“Ensuring that broadband can reach businesses and consumers across the country is one of the most important policies in government,” said Townsend. “Faster connections will improve the way people live, work and spend their leisure time.”

He will oversee the distribution of £790m of funding to bring superfast connections to 95% of the United Kingdom by 2017, a further £150m for high speed broadband for businesses in 22 cities, and £150m to improve mobile phone coverage on motorways and in remote areas.

Miller has also announced that £10m of funding will be available in March for pilot projects which will help the government decide how to spend the final £250m slice of rural broadband money, which is intended to get connections to the final 5% of the population not reached by the main scheme.

The pilot projects will trial alternative technologies to the fixed fibre lines which BDUK has restricted its funding to so far. These include 4G mobile signal to deliver home broadband, satellite, and running fibre lines direct to homes rather than only as far as the BT street cabinet. New connection points closer to homes than the existing cabinets could also be piloted.

“If we want to ensure that all communities can benefit then we need to think imaginatively about alternative technology, and the pilots enabled by the £10m fund will be instrumental in helping us overcome the challenges of reaching the final 5% of premises,” Miller said.

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Market for TV sport to hit record £16bn in 2014 as broadcasters play hardball

Deloite projects double-digit growth with no sign of demand easing for European football leagues and big four US sports

The market for global sports rights will hit £16bn in 2014, a rise of 14% on last year, as demand for top-flight European football and Major League baseball entices hefty investments from broadcasters.

Deloitte said in a report that it saw no end to the rush for premium sports rights, with revenue growth driven by new broadcast deals for the English Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga and US baseball. The accounting company added that sports rights payments will outpace global pay TV revenues, which are expected to grow 4% this year, with premium sports content more valued than ever as a lure for audiences.

Last year BT dropped a bombshell on the sports world when it secured the rights to broadcast Champions League and Europa League football for £900m from next year, more than double the existing £400m deal with ITV and BSkyB.

European football will contribute 46% of the 2014 rights total with £6.5bn, Deloitte said, with the Premier League accounting for £1.9bn. The growth in cost of sports rights has accelerated this year, having grown by an average of 5% over the past four years before the projected double-digit leap in 2014.

Austin Houlihan, a senior consultant in sports business at Deloitte, said new market entrants “looking for attractive differentiating sports content” were driving up fees as they take on established players such as BSkyB.

Houlihan said there was no sign that the “premium sports rights bubble” was about to burst: “Premium live sport delivers large audiences, typically characterised by an attractive demographic profile. It drives subscriptions and generates advertising for broadcasters, particularly in an increasingly altered media landscape. In some cases, premium sports broadcast rights fees have been insulated from wider economic pressures by multi-year contracts.

“Television and premium sports are well-matched for each other: at the highest level, sport is great unscripted live drama for television. Constant advances in technology are leading to ever more sophisticated, compelling ways in which sports can be portrayed.”

Deloitte said 75% of the rights windfall will be generated by 10 competitions: the leading domestic football leagues in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, the Champions League, and the US ice hockey, baseball, American football and basketball leagues.

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Pets on planes to sex toys: the year’s quirkiest business stories

Markets and Ryanair had their usual ups and downs, while Ann Summers, Apple and Asos were among the colourful reports, says Peter KimptonPeter Kimpton

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Media Talk podcast: BT ups its game against Sky

John Plunkett is joined by Steve Ackerman, MD of content creation company Somethin’ Else and Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, to discuss the biggest media stories of the week.

As BT acquires the rights to the Champions League from next year, has Sky – which saw its shares drop at the start of this week – taken its eye off the ball?

Home secretary Theresa May has suggested that the decline in sales of local newspapers is the fault of the BBC; Emily Bell compares the UK market with the what’s happening in the BBC-less US.

A new campaign called Rewind and Reframe launched on Monday, just as wrecking ball aficionado Miley Cyrus declares herself “one of the biggest feminists in the world”. Helen Zaltzman reports on the pressure put on the UK government to bring in a age advisory system for online videos.

Plus, we join Rebecca Nicholson in her TV lair where she discusses daytime television, the ongoing Homeland unpleasantness and MasterChef: the Professionals.



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BT’s Champions League deal leaves BSkyB worrying about keeping crown

If BT snatches Premier League rights, BSkyB could no longer credibly claim to be the home of live televised football in the UK

BSkyB has been very successful over the years in squashing upstart competitors in football and sports broadcasting. The company, however, has never faced a rival like an invigorated BT. In a battle of chequebooks, the key statistic to bear in mind is that BSkyB currently generates free cash flow of about £1bn a year whereas BT, utterly transformed over the past five years, throws off about £2.3bn. This is a new game. Or, as Bernstein’s analysts put it, “the end of peaceful co-existence in the UK telecom and TV worlds”.

For the time being, BSkyB can console itself that Champions League football accounts for only 3% of viewing across its sports channels. BT’s expensively-acquired three-year rights for European competitions also kick in only from the 2015-16 season, which leaves BSkyB time to assess the damage. It is in the fortunate position of having 85% of its sports rights secured for the next three years.

But the soul-searching can’t last for very long. The open question is what happens when bidding opens for the next set of Premier League rights, probably in mid-2015. Sky currently has the bigger and better package by far. But if BT were to overpay in similar style for Premier League leadership, BSkyB, for the first time in its history, could no longer credibly claim to be the home of live televised football in the UK.

Would its sport offer still be big enough and broad enough to overcome the blow? It would be a brave management that took that gamble. Monday’s 11% fall in BSkyB’s share price reflects what’s at stake in 2015: BSkyB may have to pay a truly colossal sum to defend its Premier League status. And it is reasonable to assume that, at the very least, BT would not want to take a backwards step on Premier League rights in 2015.

So should BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch preserve cash now with the aim of fighting and winning comprehensively in 2015? Or does he invest elsewhere in sports to manage, and reduce, the risk of a further loss to BT? Tricky.

From BT’s point of view, it can make a fair argument that the cost of an entry ticket to the top tier of sports broadcasting is a reasonable investment. It has 7m broadband subscribers, versus BSkyB’s 5m, and the management would be receiving flak if the gap closed much further. There may be easy ways to recoup some of the £900m outlay on Uefa rights via wholesaling deals; and the purchase looks a sensible way to fill the gaping hole in BT Sports’ current midweek schedule. As long as BT can maintain the pledge that its financial outlook is unchanged shareholders should be reassured.

That said, BT’s shareholders should not celebrate too wildly a victory in a “six pointer”, as chief executive Gavin Patterson described it. There will be a response from BSkyB.

RSA audit
This is a company that seems to only deliver bad news

Does the discovery of “accounting irregularities” during a routine internal audit offer evidence that an insurer is able to detect problems as a matter of course? Or, when the irregularities are so serious that they cause a £70m hit to profits, does it mean problems should have been spotted earlier?

In the case of RSA, which revealed the £70m hole in its claims reserves in Ireland late on Friday, a definitive answer will have to wait until accountants PwC have completed their work. That could take until the new year.

In the meantime, investors know one thing about RSA: it is a company that seems to deliver only bad news. The dividend was cut earlier this year and Friday’s shocker, which sent the shares down 10% on Monday, was the second profits warning in a week. Last Tuesday’s version was an extended grumble about storm damage and unrelated whiplash claims in Ireland.

In theory, the new Irish issue is a one-off, but, as Oliver Steel at Deutsche Bank put it: “Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell would possibly have something to say about the frequency.”

RSA chief executive Simon Lee says he is “comfortable” with the City’s forecasts that the dividend can be maintained at the reduced level. But comfortable is not a description one would apply to the dividend cover itself. On Deutsche’s forecast, RSA would be distributing 6.4p a share to investors from earnings of 6.8p. There is no room there for any more “one-offs”.

Lee’s position seems safe for now. But he needs a full and glowing endorsement of the robustness of RSA’s controls.

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BT’s Champions League deal hits BSkyB shares

Nearly £1.5bn wiped from the stock market value of BSkyB, with shares down nearly 10%

BSkyB could be forced to pay an extra £1.2bn to secure the next set of Premier League broadcast rights after its shock loss to rival BT in an auction of live Champions League and Europa League football matches.

The predicted soaring cost of football rights, as well as the realisation that the sports pay television market may now have a serious second player, led to a stark reassessment of BSkyB’s value, which slumped by £1.6bn on the stock exchange on Monday as its shares fell almost 11%.

The share price movement followed BT Sport’s shock announcement of its exclusive £897m three-year deal with European governing body Uefa to broadcast 350 fixtures a season from 2015. BSkyB had been expected to retain most of its current rights to Europe’s leading club tournament.

Matthew Walker, a media analyst with investment bank Nomura, wrote in a note to investors: “Regardless of whether BT can monetise [its Champions League] outlay, it shows that they are not content to be the number two sports service, which has big implications for the next Premier League auction in mid-2015. This is really a must-win for Sky and we raise our inflation assumption to 60% from 40% (up another £156m per annum). Sky cannot afford to be [financially] disciplined on this one.”

Sky’s current Premier League deal is worth about £2.3bn, which gives it rights to show 116 games a season until 2015-16 and is a 40% hike on what it paid at the previous auction. Nomura now predicts that the price will be nearer £3.5bn from the start of the 2016-17 season – a sum likely to intensify the debate over the finances of football and particularly the pay of players, who have been the chief beneficiaries of soaring broadcast rights costs.

BSkyB declined to predict what it might pay in future auctions, although the importance of English football to the channel is clear. The Champions League accounts for less than 3% of total viewing across Sky Sports, against 19% for the Premier League.

While the Premier League may gain indirectly from BT’s move into Champions League, the loss of the rights is being seen as a major blow for BSkyB and ITV, which currently share the rights to the tournament. Sky said BT’s bid for the deal was “far in excess” of its own, while ITV said it was “not prepared to pay over the odds”. At £299m a year over the three years, BT is paying more than double the £400m BSkyB and ITV are paying for the current three-year Champions League contract.

The stock market viewed the developments differently, however. The fall in BSkyB shares cut the value of the company to £13.2bn, while shares in ITV edged down by 1.6%. But shares in BT Group, a newcomer to sports broadcasting after launching its limited Premier League service at the start of this season, rose slightly after initial losses amid fears that it had massively overpaid. BT’s sports channels are available on its BT Vision TV service, on Virgin Media and on Sky.

Nick Dale-Lace, senior sales trader at CMC Markets, described it as “a huge blow to Sky and a monumental statement of intent from BT as it tries to grab a foothold in the UK television market”. He added: “Both Sky and ITV, who have a number of years of experience to draw on, do not think the price represents value, but perhaps in the context of BT’s plans it may be worth paying up.”

BT Sport made its debut on 1 August, and the group said its financial outlook was unchanged despite the latest deal, adding that the rights would improve revenue and profit in its consumer division in the “medium term”.

Announcing the deal on Saturday, the newly appointed BT chief executive, Gavin Patterson, hailed it as “giving sport back to the fans”. He defended the amount paid, saying it injected “a welcome element of competition” into the market.

The head of BT’s consumer division, John Petter, said: “These were the crown jewels properties for Sky. I’m sure they’ll be kicking themselves today. I feel for them obviously, but they got it wrong.”

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BT wins Champions League rights: what does it mean for you?

BT has beaten BSkyB and ITV to the rights to screen Champions League matches – what are the implications for consumers, the television industry and the game of football?

Sports broadcasting newcomer BT has beaten BSkyB and ITV to the rights to screen Champions League matches from 2015, paying almost £900m for the contract. But what will the switch mean for consumers?

How much will this cost me?

Too early to say. BT has not yet released its prices and its coverage does not start until 2015/16.

Do I have to subscribe to both Sky and BT?

You don’t have to subscribe to either. But if you want to watch every weekend of the Premier League, plus all the Chapions League and Europa Cup, then yes. However, if Champions League is your thing, then you won’t need Sky at all from 2015/16.

As a non-paying television viewer will I be able to watch the Champions League?

Yes. As part of the negotiations, UEFA insisted that some matches, including both finals, were shown free-to-air in order to preserve the value of its sponsorship deals and ensure that they could be seen by a wider audience. Under the current agreement, one game in every round of Champions League matches is shown on ITV, as well as some Europa League games. BT has promised that every participating British team will be shown free at least once a season to non-subscribers. Also, ITV could yet pick up a highlights package.

How many games will it involve?

BT will show all 350 matches in the UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup.

What does watching live Champions League currently cost?

According to the price comparison website, USwitch, digital television viewers can get Sky Sports included on a broadband, television and telephone deal from a minimum of about £40 a month. For current Sky subscribers, adding Sky Sports costs an extra £22 a month.

Obviously, watching ITV’s less comprehensive coverage is free, save the cost of a television licence. You can also watch matches for the cost of a couple of pints in pubs showing Sky Sports. BT has been strongly attacking the pubs and clubs market already to push its Premier League coverage and is sure to repeat that approach for the Champions League, as it provides publicans with an effective way of promoting their venues during quieter midweek winter evenings. Bookmaking shops might also take a service from BT.

Will Sky get cheaper without the Champions League?

It’s too early to say for sure, but it seems unlikely. For the first time there is real competition in the UK sports pay television market, which a cursory reading of economic theory suggests should force prices down for viewers. However, competition cuts both ways. There is clearly more demand to acquire the rights, which is likely to keep forcing prices up. Those rights have to be paid for.

What does it mean for Sky’s Premier League coverage?

Sky currently has rights to show 116 Premier League games a season until 2015/16. It paid a total of £2.3bn for the matches, and gets 20 weeks a season where it gets its choice of games. Little will change from the subscribers’ perspective until the 2016/17 season. Sky might retain the most attractive packages, but for the moment it seems to have a more serious rival that might attempt to expand the number of games it can show. Until 2015/16, BT has invested £738m for rights to 38 live Premier League matches a season, including 18 “first picks”.

Will there be a talent drain from Sky to BT?

Possibly eventually, but that is a long way off. It is easy to forget that Sky hasn’t got to its current position by being staffed by second-raters. It still has far better sports content than BT and behind the scenes employs lots of very capable media people, unaccustomed to finishing second. The business is sure to react.

Is this likely to result in a pay boom for clubs and is that a good thing?

Champions League holders Bayern Munich collected £47.3m in prize money and TV income last season. Ironically, the growing gap between rich and poor is widened by UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules, designed to calm football’s overheating finances by forcing clubs to break even. But because the biggest clubs bring in the most revenue, boosted further by their Champions League earnings, some fear that the upper echelons of the game could become even more of a closed shop than at present.

How does it work in other countries?

Germany, Italy, France and Spain all currently have similar Champions League broadcasting set-ups to the UK, with a mixture of free-to-air and pay television providers. Late last month Modern Times Group (MTG) became the first broadcaster in Europe to agree a deal with UEFA for the latest batch of rights between 2015 to 2018. Like BT, it will be the single provider of free-to-air and pay services.

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