The broadcast of live sport in Britain is facing its biggest shake-up for years after BT and Discovery announced plans for a UK merger of BT Sport and Eurosport.
But what will that mean when it comes to coverage of some of the biggest events in world sport?
What has been announced?
BT and Eurosport owners Discovery confirmed they had entered into exclusive discussions to create a new sport venture in the UK and Ireland. They said they aimed for the 50/50 joint-venture to be operational this year pending a definite agreement and regulatory approval. Telegraph Sport revealed in April that BT was in talks to explore a partial sale of BT Sport less than a decade after it launched a major assault on sports broadcasting. Since then, it held talks with rival firms, including over an outright sale to streaming firm DAZN. But Discovery won out.
What does this mean?
Provided it goes ahead, it would result in arguably the biggest-ever merger of two British sports broadcasters. It would see BT Sport customers gain access to Eurosport content and vice-versa and could give it more room for manoeuvre when it comes to retaining the rights it holds and competing for those it does not. Inevitably, much of the focus would be on whether it would pursue more Premier League football but with a new three-year deal for those having only been struck last year, it will have to wait at least two years before bidding.
Which sports are included?
Between them, BT Sport and Eurosport hold an impressive portfolio that includes live – and in many cases exclusive – UK rights to the Olympics, Premier League, Champions League and other Uefa club competitions, tennis grand slams, Premiership rugby, overseas cricket, cycling grand tours, MotoGP, boxing, winter sports and UFC.
Does this affect coverage of the Premier League and Champions League?
It would be a surprise if it did in the short-term. It would be much more cost-effective to keep these properties under the BT Sport brand and to cover them using existing personnel. Longer-term, Eurosport may wish to showcase such premium content on its own channels, particularly given the joint-venture could one day come to an end and it may wish to enter the market for Premier League and Champions League matches alone.
How much will it cost?
A monthly subscription for BT Sport currently costs £15, with one for Eurosport costing £6.99 (various offers are available). If the plan is for all customers of one to have ‘free’ access to the content of the other then those prices will surely need to be harmonised and there is every chance the combined figure will be larger still. It is unclear whether customers will be able to opt out of content they do not wish to watch, thereby potentially paying less.