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Sports fans to reap benefits of BT and Sky rivalry

Friday, November 22nd 2013 by Cable.co.uk
BT's rivalry with Sky over sports broadcasting looks set to benefit consumers
Consumers look set to benefit from the fierce rivalry between BT and Sky.

As the battle between BT and Sky over sports TV grows ever-more bloodthirsty, it increasingly seems there'll only be one real winner: the consumer.

This month, BT dished out perhaps the deadliest blow of the scrap so far by outbidding Sky (and ITV) for the live rights to the Uefa Champions League and Europa League - a move that saw Sky's share price drop by 11 per cent.

But this victory came at a price. In securing the rights to European football from 2015-18, BT has agreed to shell out around £299 million, a whopping amount in anyone's book. So much so, in fact, that Sky - which raked in more than £1.8 billion in revenue in 2013's third quarter - was forced to admit it simply couldn't afford to compete.

While BT's big win will no doubt have had the telecoms giant's bigwigs slapping each other's backs, the company evidently has no desire to rest on its laurels.

Since bagging the Champions League rights, BT TV Chief Executive Marc Watson has hinted that further acquisitions could be on the way. Despite admitting that European football's top club tournament set the broadcaster back an "eye-watering" amount, he stressed that BT is open to purchasing more live rights, including the possibility of capturing the Fifa World Cup and additional Barclays Premier League games.

Sky's response appears to be based on the old adage "keep your friends close and but your enemies closer". Jeremy Darroch, the satcaster's Chief Executive, insisted Sky would be eager to cut a sports wholesale deal with BT, provided the terms were reciprocal.

What does that mean to the viewer? Well, if you've got one of BT's new YouView set-top boxes, an agreement between the two rivals could see you gain access to Sky Sports 1 and 2 (provided you're prepared to pay the subscription, of course). What's more, Sky could be permitted to sell BT Sport to its own customers (at present, all sales are carried out directly by BT).

Whether the two parties decide to go down the path of collaboration or square off on price and the quality of their respective offerings, the average sports fan looks set to benefit.

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