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BT and Sky play down appetite for big budget Uefa Champions League TV rights as broadcasters lodge first bids


By Tony Connelly | Sports Marketing Reporter

March 3, 2017 | 4 min read

BT boss, Gavin Patterson, has called for an end to the “rampant inflation” in price for football TV rights as the broadcaster begins its bidding war with rival Sky for the new Champions League contract and insists it does not need the exclusive rights to achieve its aims.

BT Sport's exclusive Champions League tv deal is due to expire at the end of next season's competition

BT Sport's exclusive Champions League tv deal is due to expire at the end of next season's competition

The telecom giant’s chief executive made the comments as it lodged its first-round bid for the next set of UK rights to the Uefa Champions League and Europa League competitions.

BT Sport currently holds the exclusive UK TV rights to the tournaments after it poached them from Sky in 2013 with a £900m three-year contract spanning the 2015-16 to 2017-18 seasons. However the bidding process for the next three-year contract has now opened and Uefa has increased the asking price.

The governing body is reportedly aiming for up to 30% more to as much as £1.2bn with the new deal, which could be announced as soon as next week.

The increased asking price led Patterson to decree that the “rampant inflation in sports rights” has to end.

Speaking at the annual Enders Analysis conference in London, Patterson played down BT’s appetite to engage in full on cost bidding war with Sky, as it had previously done with the Premier League rights. He insisted that the company did not see the exclusive Champions League rights as necessary to achieving its aims.

“We don’t need to be number one in the sports market, but we do need to be a viable number two,” said Patterson.

Similarly Sky looks to be playing down its wiliness to lodge a record breaking bid to win back the Champions League rights. According to reports the broadcaster could be holding its budget to secure a greater hold on the lucrative Premier League rights when the next contract is up for grabs.

TV viewing figures for the Champions League have slumped since BT Sport took over and, while there has been a wider problem of declining audiences for live sport in general, much of the criticism has aimed at the fact that the competition is no longer on free-to-air television. Champions League sponsors have in turn reportedly expressed concern over the lack of exposure given that both Sky and ITV had previously split the rights.

To boost reach, BT Sport aired the 2016 Champions League and Europa League finals live on YouTube, a move which helped it reach more than 1.8 million viewers.

Following on from this BT has reportedly held talks with potential free-to-air partners, including Channel 4.

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