BT gives live rugby coverage a punt

BT Vision image

BT is looking to win over rugby fans

UK telco BT has sealed one of the biggest broadcast deals in the history of club rugby, signing a contract worth up to GB£ 152mn (US$ 245mn) for a range of exclusive live rights over a four year period to English rugby’s biggest games.

The deal involves the broadcasting of Aviva Premiership Rugby and the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Sevens from the 2013-14 season on the telco’s IPTV service ‘BT Vision’.

BT will also have exclusive live broadcast rights to matches played by Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs in any future European competitions from 2014-15 for three years.

Live Aviva Premiership matches are currently split between BSkyB and ESPN, so the new deal represents a significant coup for BT and means that rugby fans will be able to catch all of the excitement of the Aviva Premiership in one place, with the bonus of additional live coverage from future European competitions from 2014.

Marc Watson, BT Vision CEO commented: “BT is delighted to have secured this deal. Rugby Union is entering a thrilling phase with the World Cup being staged here in 2015 and rugby returning to the Olympics in 2016. We plan to bring the excitement of the very best matches to as wide an audience as possible. We will also be bringing all of the action together in one place and will look to distribute it on a variety of platforms.”

Premiership Rugby is the umbrella organisation of Aviva Premiership Rugby, which comprises the following 12 clubs: Bath Rugby, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, London Wasps, London Welsh, Northampton Saints, Sale Sharks, Saracens and Worcester Warriors.

BT has been on a spending spree for sports coverage recently, and has already secured the broadcast rights to 38 live football games from the English Premier League and 18 first picks (around half of those available) for the 2013/14 to 2015/16 football seasons – and will create a new football-themed channel next year to host them all.

The telco added 21,000 subscribers for its BT Vision service in the second quarter of this year to reach a total of 728,000 customers – fewer than the previous quarter, though the pace of additions is expected to pick up again once its new football-focused channel arrives next year.

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