Discovery has announced that it has entered into exclusive discussions with BT Group to create a new sport venture in the UK by combining its Eurosport business in the UK and Ireland with BT Sport. The companies aim for the 50:50 Joint Venture to be operational in 2022 pending a definite agreement and regulatory approval.
The proposed UK venture would bring together BT Sport and Eurosport UK, which have extensive portfolios of premium sport rights, including the Olympic Games, Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, cycling Grand Tours, tennis Grand Slams, the winter sport World Cup season and Premiership Rugby.
Disney was also in negotiations to purchase BT Sports, along with ITV, Amazon and DAZN, but Discovery was able to secure the purchase. Discovery is also currently going through the final stages of purchasing WarnerMedia, which will continue the battle of the streaming giants when Discovery+ and HBO Max are expected to merge at a later date.
JB Perrette, President & CEO of Discovery Streaming & International said in a statement regarding the purchase of BT Sports:
“We are excited about this opportunity with BT Group to offer consumers a stronger and simplified combined sport offering in the U.K. and Ireland, and, more broadly, to advance our strategy of bringing sports and entertainment to more consumers on the platform of their choice. We are aligned with BT Group on a shared vision to maximize the value and appeal of our respective UK sport assets, and we look forward to concluding a deal in the coming weeks.”
BT acquired ESPN in the UK and Ireland in 2013, then back in 2015, Disney and BT signed a seven-year contract that allows BT Sport to use the ESPN brand and potential joint digital media initiatives. This means that the contract with BT Sports expires in 2022 and it could open the door for more ESPN content to be added to Disney+ in the UK and Ireland later this year. Last November, Disney started adding ESPN documentaries onto Disney+ in the UK and Ireland. Recently, it was revealed in some code within Disney+ that ESPN live events were being tested.
BT Sport currently broadcasts an ESPN channel, showcasing content including 30 for 30 documentaries, and live sports from college basketball, football, gymnastics and much more. It’s unknown if this channel will continue to air following the purchase of BT Sports, or if this content will shift over to Disney+ or ESPN Player, which is another streaming service run across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Kevin Mayer, the chairman of Dazn (and former Disney+ boss) also confirmed they are no longer involved in the purchase of BT Sports:
“We remain fully committed to growing our business and investing in the UK, as you will see in the near future. On this occasion, however, the deal for BT Sport became uneconomical for Dazn. However, we respect that BT chose a different strategic path and wish BT, BT Sport and Discovery all the best for the future.”
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