Amazon, Disney, and sports streamer DAZN are reportedly circling a sale of BT Sport, the British broadcaster that holds rights to blue-chip sports events including the Premier League and Champions League.
The Daily Telegraph reported late Wednesday that UK telecoms giant BT has engaged investment bank Lazard to explore a partial sale of its sports television arm as the £16 billion ($22B) company increases its focus on broadband. The Financial Times also corroborated the story.
On Thursday morning, BT confirmed the plans. In a statement, it said: “Further to media reports, BT can confirm that early discussions are being held with a number of select strategic partners, to explore ways to generate investment, strengthen our sports business, and help take it to the next stage in its growth. The discussions are confidential and may or may not lead to an outcome.”
The Telegraph said BT is in talks with Amazon, Disney, and DAZN about the sale. It added that an unnamed British broadcaster is also eying BT Sport, which has become an established part of the UK TV landscape and a genuine rival to Sky since launching in 2013.
DAZN is said to be “most keen” on BT Sport, a source told the Telegraph. The sports streamer, which is bankrolled by billionaire Len Blavatnik and chaired by former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, has become a disruptive force in the sports arena. Only last month, it beat Sky to exclusive Serie A rights in Italy and has previously expressed an interest in televising the Premier League.
A sale of BT Sport will not be straightforward, however. There are questions over the value of sports rights amid the pandemic, while it remains a precarious business, with broadcasters at the mercy of rights holders like the Premier League. Disney knows this well after its failed attempt to establish ESPN in the UK, with BT Sport ultimately superseding the broadcaster after beating it to Premier League rights in 2012.
The Premier League is currently in talks to skip another TV rights auction in the UK and extend the existing contracts of Sky, Amazon, and BT Sport, according to widespread reports. Under the plans, Sky, Amazon, and BT Sport could retain their rights until 2025 on broadly the same terms that they currently enjoy.
Amazon and Disney declined to comment. DAZN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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