Premier League sells TV rights to Sky
The Barclays Premier League announced the sale of domestic TV rights to BSkyB and BT for 3.018 billion pounds ($4.69 billion) in a record three-year deal on Wednesday, allowing Sky to extend its coverage of the world's most popular football league.
British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), the longtime foundation of the league's UK broadcasting package, agreed to pay £2.28 billion for the exclusive rights to show 116 live matches a year from 2013 to 2016. That is £700 million more than the pay-TV giant paid for a deal during the last auction in 2009.
And in a surprise, the league said telecom company BT Group had won the exclusive rights to show the remaining 38 games each year. Paying £738 million for the three-year package, BT muscled out Walt Disney's ESPN, which has been showing a small package of live games.
The windfall for the English Premier League shows how the value of sports rights continues to skyrocket as pay-TV operators increasingly seek to lock down reliably popular content in a fragmented media world, where the internet has threatened their hold on viewers.
The 69 percent jump in the value of the rights awarded Wednesday surprised the market. The soccer league received £1.8 billion for the prior package of UK live rights, which covered 2010 to 2013. The package before that, covering 2007 to 2010, sold for £1.7 billion.
"We couldn't have gone to market at a better time," English Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore said at a news conference Wednesday.
The announcement also underscores how far BSkyB, the UK's biggest pay-TV platform, is willing to go to retain its most crucial programming asset: live Premier League soccer games that feature clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal and NewsCore, holds a 39.1 percent stake in BSkyB.
BSkyB has dominated the auctions to show Premier League matches for the past 20 years, but it is the first time BT has won any rights, an important step in the British telecom giant's drive to get more subscribers for its fledgling TV platform.
BT plans to launch a soccer-focused channel for the games. BT Chief Executive Ian Livingston said the rights dovetail nicely with BT's £2.5 billion investment in high-speed fiber-optic broadband, because "consumers increasingly want to buy their broadband and entertainment services from a single provider."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.