In something of a shock move, BT has announced that it has entered into exclusive negotiations with Discovery to create a new sports joint venture.
All signs had been pointing to BT nearing a deal to offload BT Sport to DAZN in a deal worth an estimated $800m but the UK-based telco has decided against a full sale of its sports operation, and instead is opting to combine efforts with Discovery-owned Eurosport.
Announcing the talks, BT said that the new business would be a 50/50 joint venture that is committed to retaining BT Sport’s existing major sports broadcast rights while giving its subscribers access to Discovery’s sport and entertainment content including discovery+.
BT added that it is aiming to conclude talks in early Q1, with the new company to be operational later this year.
Marc Allera, CEO BT Consumer, said: “The proposed joint venture with Discovery, Inc. would create an exciting new sports broadcasting entity for the UK and would act as a perfect home for our BT Sport business. With a shared ambition for growth, as well as the combination of our world class sports assets along with Discovery’s premium sports and entertainment content, our customers will benefit from even more content in more places.”
Combining Eurosport with BT Sport would pool together a significant portfolio of sports rights including the Olympic Games, English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, cycling Grand Tours, tennis Grand Slams and a number of others.
JB Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery Streaming & International, said: “We are excited about this opportunity with BT Group to offer consumers a stronger and simplified combined sport offering in the UK 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 maximise the value and appeal of our respective UK sport assets, and we look forward to concluding a deal in the coming weeks.”
Reacting to the news in a statement, DAZN chair Kevin Mayer said that a proposed deal to acquire BT Sport had “become uneconomical” for the streamer but that the company is still committed to the UK market.
Examining the JV, Kester Mann, director, consumer and connectivity, CCS Insight described Discovery’s entry into talks as “gate-crashing the deal”. He added that BT would look to an eventual sale as “the likely end-game for the operator,” with the joint-venture maximising the broadcaster’s value.