BT confirms ‘early discussions’ over future of BT Sport

BT has confirmed that it is in “early discussions” over BT Sport – following a report that it was in talks to offload a stake in the TV operation.

The Daily Telegraph said the telecoms giant was understood to be in talks with potential partners including Amazon, Disney and sports streaming service Dazn, as well as an unnamed British broadcaster.

BT said in a brief statement: “Further to media reports, BT can confirm that early discussions are being held with a number of select strategic partners, to explore ways to generate investment, strengthen our sports business, and help take it to the next stage in its growth.

“The discussions are confidential and may or may not lead to an outcome.”

The statement did not name the companies involved in the discussion. Amazon declined to comment.

BT Sport currently holds the rights to screen Champions League and Europa League football as well as showing a tranche of Premier League and FA Cup games a season, plus Premiership and European rugby union.

Amazon already has a foothold in English football broadcasting, holding rights to a smaller number of Premier League games. Sky – the owner of Sky News – has the largest presence in the top-flight.

The announcement that BT is in talks with potential investor partners for BT Sport comes after short-lived plans for a European super league were announced by 12 clubs including England’s “big six” of Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal.

That initiative collapsed within days after a wave of opposition from politicians, players, fans and other clubs – but if it had got off the ground could have severely undermined the Champions League, analysts said.

Shares climbed 2%.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “Maybe BT doesn’t think the breakaway European Super League is as dead as it appears to be.

“The sports broadcaster’s crown jewels are its exclusive rights to the existing UEFA-backed competitions including the Champions League – a product which would be massively devalued if the top clubs followed through on a threat to forge out on their own.

“Plus at the moment the world of sports and sports rights is in a flux thanks to the pandemic – it’s a very different world from the one in which BT launched as a challenger to Sky nearly a decade ago.

“By selling a bit of the business, and reducing the amount it spends on sport, BT could generate funds to help meet the massive bill it faces for investing in broadband infrastructure.”

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