BT Sport has entered into exclusive talks with US pay-TV firm Discovery over a potential merger of their operations in the UK.
The joint-venture would be a significant one in the UK given that Discovery already owns Eurosport – which is broadcasting the Winter Olympics in the UK alongside the BBC – and BT Sport, which owns the rights to oodles of sports including the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UFC, WWE, Ligue Un, Rugby Union, Cricket, MotoGP and many others.
If the deal passes through regulatory approval then it’s expected that the merger will be completed later in 2022.
What does this mean for existing BT Sport subscribers? At this moment it’s unknown as to whether the operation would be consumed and rebranded or continue to exist with two separate identities. BT Sport has said that its customers would gain access to Discovery’s sport and entertainment content as well as the discovery+ app.
The merger between the two companies is said to be a 50: 50 joint venture, which suggests equal share and control over future decisions. And bringing the two companies together would make for a huge sports broadcaster that would be able to take on Sky’s sports operations.
There was increasing speculation that sports streaming site DAZN were looking to purchase BT Sport for around $800million to increase its market share in the UK. DAZN had showed interest in bidding for the rights to the Premier League but this deal would strike a blow to those aspirations and pose the query of how much it can grow given it’s been losing a fair chunk of cash in its bid to break through and become the ‘Netflix of Sports’.
On the potential merger, 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.”