In a deal expected to close in late July, UK telecommunications provider BT will acquire ESPN‘s UK and Ireland TV channels business which primarily includes the ESPN and ESPN America channels. As part of the deal, BT, an aggressive player in the UK sports rights arena, will pick up those channels’ rights to live soccer matches from the FA Cup, the UEFA Europe League, the German Bundesliga and the Scottish Premier League. BT will continue to operate at least one ESPN-branded channel and will continue to air U.S. sports including NCAA college basketball, NCAA college football and NASCAR. Disney-owned ESPN had been seeking an exit from the ultra-competitive UK market which BT entered last year via a £738M deal ($1.1B) for 38 live Premier League soccer games annually for three years from the start of the 2013-14 season. That competition resulted in split rights with News Corp’s BSkyB and shut out ESPN. BT has acquired additional rights to high-profile rugby and tennis tournaments as well and is launching a new Sport TV package this summer. ESPN will continue to own and operate its existing digital media businesses while the non-UK ESPN America TV businesses and ESPN Classic are expected to be wound down throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. BT said the transaction is expected to complete on July 31. Financials were not disclosed.
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