They’ve stolen Sky’s crown jewels, but can BT Sport be King?

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McManaman and James: BT Sport’s ‘Spice Boys’ reunion has been almost as unwelcome as the female equivalent

Today, BT Sport announced they’ve won the rights to Champions League games from 2015-18. £897m, for all 350 games – ending ITV’s long-running stint, and snatching Sky’s most recent jewel in their footballing crown.

This shit just got real.

The Football TV rights landscape has seen many pretenders come and go but Sky have always held firm.

Setanta and ESPN have come and gone. Largely in the same fashion – stretched to the limit of their finances and with a woeful lack of subscribers they crumbled. There was no real forward planning. They were nowhere near big enough to survive. Like a newly promoted Premier League team just happy to be on a higher stage, this was the sort of venture where failure was inevitable.

But then came BT Sport.

Even last year, in press rooms around the country that I was lucky enough to go to I’d hear from journalists and press officers that they would just be the same. Not all of them admittedly, but many didn’t have a clue what BT would add. They saw them as another Setanta and ESPN.

For me the facts were clear as soon as BT paid £246m per season for a package that included around half of the Premier League’s top picks.

They were serious. This wasn’t a toe in the water. They were knee deep. It wasn’t WBA vs Liverpool at 5:45. It was first picks at premium times.

When you start looking deeper you see BT are reinventing their whole business. This isn’t merely an add on. This is going to be core business. TV and Sport. With internet and phone businesses becoming increasingly ubiquitous, TV and Sport is BT’s new aim.

Their financials back it up too. Huge reserves and £18.3bn revenue vs BSkyB’s £7.2bn last year have given BT the financial clout to finally test the dominance that Sky have wielded since they first won the rights to the Premier League.

But BT still have a long way to go. Getting rid of David James and Steve McMannaman would be a start. As would adding some more slickness to their show. But for year one I think they’ve so far done a fantastic job. They didn’t even exist 6 months ago. And they have some fantastic people behind the scenes, especially in their digital and social departments – not to mention a great tie up with Opta too.

What does it hold for the future? Who knows. One thing is for sure, the Premier League rights bidding just got even more competitive. I imagine we’ll see the record broken for TV rights again. And if Sky don’t win them… Well, what do they have left?

Written by @RKTweets

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