BT and Warner Bros. Discovery’s sports shakeup gets go-ahead from UK watchdog

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has given the go-ahead to BT Group and Warner Bros. Discovery planned sports broadcasting joint venture. 

Announced earlier this year, the 50:50 project will result in BT’s BT Sport and Warner Bros. Discovery’s Eurosport UK merged to form a new sports offering for the UK and Irish markets. 

Each outlet will initially retain and operate under their existing brand identities and using their current product ranges, before the respective partners move forward with the full merger into one single entity ‘in the future’. 

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division, and Andrew Georgiou, President and Managing Director at Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe, will serve on the board of the new venture – the former as Chairman, and the latter in an unconfirmed capacity.

Allera said: “It’s great news that the CMA has approved the new JV that we are forming with Warner Bros. Discovery, combining the very best of BT Sport and Eurosport UK, to create an exciting new offer for live sport programming in the UK. 

“Today is a huge milestone, as we now look toward day one of the new business, which we hope to be in the coming weeks.”

Following the CMA’s decision, BT and Warner Bros. Discovery stated that creation of the JV will be completed ‘in the coming weeks’, with each of the conglomerate’s assets subsequently transferred into the new holding. 

At the time of the JV’s initial announcement back in May, it was revealed that BT would gain £93m from the transfer of its BT Sport’s holding to Warner Bros. Discovery management, in addition to up to £540m via an earn-out from the merged entity.

One of the most recognisable names in British sports broadcasting, BT is most widely known in the UK as one of the chief media rights holders of the Premier League – alongside its rival Sky Sports.

The outlet also broadcasts the Scottish Premiership, UEFA Champions League and Europa League, top-flight French and Italian football, England’s Premiership Rugby, the UFC and some high-profile boxing bouts. 

Eurosport, meanwhile, holds the UK rights to the US Open and Irish rights to Wimbledon, whilst also broadcasting the pan-European basketball tournaments EuroLeague, EuroCup and Basketball Champions League to British audiences.

“Combining the capabilities, portfolios and scale of BT Sport and Eurosport UK will be a big win for fans in the UK & Ireland, offering a new destination that will feature all the sport they love in one place,” Georgiou remarked. 

“We now look forward to closing the transaction and having the opportunity to further engage all stakeholders in the process of forming and developing the JV.”

May’s announcement of the JV dealt a blow to DAZN’s expansion plans, as the OTT platform was reportedly keen to acquire BT Sport for $850 million (£600m), as BT Group sought to sell-off its high-profile sports media unit. 

London-based OTT streaming platform DAZN, known in the UK for its boxing coverage but distributing a much wider offering abroad – including the Premier League – had eyed up a takeover of BT Sport in order to bolster its standing in British sports broadcasting. 

In the months since BT’s deal with Warner Bros. Discovery, DAZN has moved forward with expansion into a different vertical – sports betting. The following month, the company revealed its DAZN Bet wagering offering, with sportsbook solution support from Pragmatic Play, before embarking on an extensive recruitment strategy.

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