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BT's Champions League coup


BT is understood to have won the rights from Uefa to televise the Champions League and the Europa League for three years from 2015. Under the present deal worth £400m the lion's share of the games go to ITV rather than Sky.

BT is thought to have paid almost £1 billion, double what the former two companies paid to share the current contract in 2011. Uefa had hoped for £600m so its hopes have been exceeded. Some of the extra money will find its way into Champions League prizes, making the financial importance of qualification even greater.

This is a major setback for BSkyB who are thought to have nearly matched BT's offer. It represents the biggest shake-up in the established order in sports broadcasting in Britain for years. Sky had ridiculed its rival for branding its capture of a share of Premier League football as a 'game changer', but this is a real game changer. In particular it will boost BT's midweek ratings which have been disappointing.

It means that continued competition between these two companies will lead to football's television income continuing to rise above the rate of inflation. BT's bid will be seen as a signal that it will be more aggressive about acquiring Premier League rights in the next bidding round. With all four Premier League clubs in the Champions League on the verge of qualification, it is a difficult day for those who claim that the Premier League bubble is about to burst.

It is understood BT Sport has committed to making certain matches available free-to-air across both the Champions League and Europa League, a tactic it has already employed with its Premier League coverage. Being available to every household with a television in the UK had been ITV’s trump card in its relationship with Uefa that has seen it broadcast the Champions League since the competition’s inception in 1992. That had been an extremely attractive prospect for sponsors, which do not enjoy the same reach on Sky Sports and would have even less exposure on BT Sport if all matches remained behind a paywall.