BT buys ESPN’s UK and Irish channels

BT Group has agreed to buy ESPN’s UK and Ireland channels business, in a move that will boost its sports output after picking up Premier League Football rights last year.

The deal, which is expected to close on July 31, will give BT the ESPN and ESPN America channels and their live sports rights portfolio, which includes the FA Cup, Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League, UEFA Europa League, and the German Bundesliga.

BT said it will continue to run at least one ESPN-branded channel and is expected to be included as part of the BT Sport TV package of channels, which is due to launch this summer.

Last June, BT agreed to pay a total of £738 million (US$1.18 billion) to air 38 premier league games per season, over three terms from 2013/14 to 2014/16, outbidding ESPN for the rights. Sky snapped up the remaining 116 live matches per season.

Later the same year BT also picked up the rights for up to 69 live rugby union matches from the Aviva Premiership and the JP Morgan Asset Management Sevens for four years starting with the 2013/14 campaigns.

Through the new deal, BT has secured ESPN’s FA Cup games for the 2013/14 season, the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League until the end of the 2016/17 season and the UEFA Europa League and German Bundesliga through to the end of the 2014/15 season. It will also allow BT to continue to showsports currently shown on ESPN America, including NCAA College Basketball, NCAA College Football and NASCAR racing.

However, separate to the BT deal, ESPN said it plans to wind down its historical sports channel ESPN Classic throughout the EMEA region, as well as the non-UK ESPN America TV businesses.

“We could not be more proud of the TV channels built and nurtured by our talented team over the past four years. The value of that hard work is reflected in this deal with BT and the continuation of ESPN on television screens across the UK and Ireland,” said Ross Hair, MD of ESPN in EMEA.

Tags: BT, ESPN