Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), the multinational media and entertainment giant, and BT, the heavyweight UK telecoms firm, have today (September 1) completed a deal through which a joint sporting broadcast venture is being created.
The 50/50-split joint venture will combine the assets of the BT Sport pay-TV UK network with the UK arm of Eurosport, the WBD-owned European broadcaster.
The intention of the deal is to create a new entrant into the UK sports broadcast market eventually and to create a combined sports offering.
While both BT Sport – which launched its sports offering in the UK in 2012 – and Eurosport will for the moment retain their current rights portfolios, channels, and platforms, this will change at some point moving forward.
As of now, the joint venture amalgamates sports rights in the UK including soccer’s English Premier League and UEFA Champions League, Premiership Rugby, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) action, top-tier grand slam tennis from France and Australia, cycling’s Tour de France, and a large chunk of the winter sports portfolio.
The most recent deal in and amongst this portfolio came in early July when BT Sport retained rights to the bulk of Champions League rights in the UK from 2024-25 through 2026-27.
As well as the aforementioned rights, WBD – through the Discovery+ over-the-top streaming service – holds UK rights to the Olympics, with that service the only platform where UK viewers can watch the entire Paris 2024 games.
This final, formal agreement comes following a process that began in February when the two parties announced they had entered exclusive negotiations.
Terms were then announced in May, and the UK”s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) approved the agreement in July.
Marc Allera, chief executive at BT’s consumer division, is the first chairperson of the joint venture – this role will be nominated by each shareholder “on a rotating basis.”
Andrew Georgiou, president and managing director at WBD Sports Europe, is another member of the board and will lead the business, BT has said.
The terms of the agreement entail WBD having the right to acquire the entire BT group shareholding in the venture in the future, and this option can be exercised at specific points in the next four years.
If this option is not utilized, BT will be able to exit the joint venture through either a private sale or an initial public offering (IPO).
The UK telecoms firm has signed up to be part of the joint venture until at least 2030, with a minimum revenue guarantee of around £500 million in place for the first four years of the tie-up.
BT will receive £93 million ($107.8 million) directly from WBD, with up to £540 million following through with the possibility of an earn-out from the joint venture.
The last set of BT financial results, in March, showed that BT Sport lost £222 million in the last financial year, while Eurosport UK’s last accounts showed an operating profit of £16 million.
Allera has now said: “Today is day one of an exciting new chapter for BT Sport. I am extremely proud of the teams and the established brand and broadcaster that BT Sport has become, and I look forward to working with Warner Bros. Discovery to create an exciting new sport TV offering for the UK.”
Georgiou added: “Combining BT Sport and Eurosport UK together with Warner Bros. Discovery’s world-class and growing entertainment offering will result in an exciting new proposition for consumers.
“It’s important for fans to know they can continue to enjoy BT Sport and Eurosport UK as they do today and we’ll keep them updated on future plans as soon as we can. We are pleased the transaction has closed and we can now further engage all stakeholders in the process of establishing the joint venture.”