In a sign of the shifting balance of power, telco BT has won the right to broadcast the next Ashes cricket test series between England and Australia. BT is believed to have paid around $120 million to broadcast the series, which is hosted in rotation between the two countries once every two years – comparable in enmity to the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox- in a five-year deal with Cricket Australia. Sky, which has most recently broadcast the five match series, which ended this weekend with a 3-2 victory for England, had paid in the region of $80 million for the previous rights cycle.
The competition between Sky and BT for sports rights has grown increasingly fierce. In February, England’s Premier League sold its latest round of soccer TV rights for a record-breaking $7.8 billion (£5.136 billion) to Sky and BT, representing a 71% increase from its last rights auction, also won by Sky and BT. Sky paid $64 billion (£4.2 billion) for five of the seven TV packages while BT paid $1.46 billion (£960 million) for the other two. The deal will run for three years from 2016. Sky paid 83% more than it did in the last round three years ago, a sign of how strategic these rights are for the pan-Euro pay TV giant.
Deep-pocketed telco BT already is proving a formidable rival and now can offer Premier League rights, the FA Cup, Champions League and European football. Sky spends more than $7 billion a year on content and rights. The company is working hard to secure its position as the UK’s leading provider of sports comes in the wake of a rapidly changing TV landscape in the UK and across Europe. In a landmark deal announced in June, John Malone’s Discovery Channel and Eurosport were awarded all TV and multi-platform rights in Europe for the Olympic Games — both winter and summer — for 2018–2024 in a deal believed to be worth $1.45 billion.
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