BT trounced by Sky in the £4bn football bidding war

Money

Sky has emerged as the big winner in a £4.4billion battle for Premier League football rights – sparking fresh criticism of BT’s expensive foray into sports broadcasting.

While Sky slashed the amount it pays per match, arch-rival BT is paying more. The blunder piles fresh pressure on Gavin Patterson, BT’s embattled boss, who has overseen a £5billion spending spree on sport.

Last night he faced calls from telecoms watchdog Ofcom to spend more on the UK’s broadband network. Ofcom said: ‘We want to see BT invest in the broadband network as a priority.’

While Sky slashed the amount it pays per Premier League match, arch-rival BT is paying more piling pressure on BT boss Gavin Patterson who has overseen a £5bn spending spree on sport

While Sky slashed the amount it pays per Premier League match, arch-rival BT is paying more piling pressure on BT boss Gavin Patterson who has overseen a £5bn spending spree on sport

While Sky slashed the amount it pays per Premier League match, arch-rival BT is paying more piling pressure on BT boss Gavin Patterson who has overseen a £5bn spending spree on sport

Patterson, 50, is also battling to rein in a £14billion pensions black hole, while shares are at a six-year low.

Under his leadership, BT has aggressively bolstered its television service by snapping up rights to show football, rugby, cricket and other major sports.

But despite massive investment it revealed this month that 5,000 customers had left in the last three months of 2017.

Yesterday it insisted it had ‘remained financially disciplined’ in the Premier League rights auction, paying £885million for 32 matches per season – £9.2million per game.

That was lower than the £960million it paid in 2015, which gave it 42 games per season at £7.6million each.

Sky paid £3.5billion for 128 matches per season, £9.3million per game. That was down from the £4.1billion it previously paid to show 126 matches per season – £11million per match.

Before the auction, the rivals had announced a deal to share content between channels and had prepared the ground for a reduction in spending.

Julian Aquilina, of Enders Analysis, said: ‘Some people will be pleased BT has not increased its spend, but it does look like they have missed an opportunity to reduce their costs per game.

‘It’s also worth remembering Sky could not actually be allowed to win the package BT won, and it’s not clear who else would have come in with a bid for it.

‘BT may be ruing the fact they could have saved more money.’ Henry Croft, an analyst at Accendo Markets, added: ‘Sky is the clear winner. Evidently, it no longer feels the need to offer big money to beat its telecom incumbent rival.

‘With BT stepping back from their bold expansion into Premier League screenings, it also brings into question whether the price increase for rights over the past four years has reached a peak.’

Overall, five packages were sold by the Premier League. Bids for the two remaining packages, which cover less-attractive mid-week matches, failed to reach the minimum asking price.

BT said it remained in the running for these, although analysts speculated that tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook or Twitter could swoop on them. Croft said: ‘By 2022, could we be watching the latest Manchester or north London derby exclusively on smartphones or tablets?’

BT said yesterday: ‘BT has remained financially disciplined during this process and remains in a strong position to make a return on this investment through subscription, wholesale, commercial and advertising revenues, especially following the acquisition of EE, which more than doubled BT’s customer base.’

Shares in the company slid 0.1 per cent, or 0.3p, to 225.55p. Sky’s shares rose 2 per cent, or 21p, to 1082p.

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