BT Group and ESPN announced today that they have agreed that BT will acquire ESPN’s UK and Ireland TV channels business. These primarily comprise the ESPN and ESPN America channels and their live sports rights portfolio, including the FA Cup, Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League, UEFA Europa League, and the German Bundesliga.
The transaction is expected to complete on July 31, 2013 after which BT will continue to operate at least one ESPN-branded channel which is expected to form part of the BT Sport TV package that will be launched by BT this summer. Additionally, the deal will allow BT to continue to show a host of US sports currently shown on ESPN America, including NCAA College Basketball, NCAA College Football and NASCAR. The ESPN channels will be broadcast from BT Sport’s new home in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. Until completion, the service for current subscribers to the ESPN channels across all television platforms remains unchanged.
The deal will enable BT Sport customers to see live coverage of the FA Cup for the 2013/14 season, the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League until the end of the 2016/17 season and the UEFA Europa League and German Bundesliga through to the end of the 2014/15 season. These join the broadcast rights that BT Sport has previously announced, including 38 live Barclays Premier League matches - including 18 of the top clashes - in each of the next three seasons (beginning August 2013); 69 live Aviva Premiership Rugby matches for the next four seasons; and up to 800 hours per season of live women’s tennis, including the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships.
ESPN will continue to own and operate its existing digital media businesses which include multisport news and information portal ESPN.co.uk, ESPNcricinfo (cricket), ESPNFC (football), ESPNscrum (rugby), ESPNF1 (Formula 1) and broadband streaming service ESPN Player. ESPN Classic has been excluded from the proposed transaction.
Marc Watson, chief executive of television, BT Retail, said: “We are delighted to have reached agreement with ESPN for the acquisition of their UK channels business and that we have been able to add some exciting new sports rights to the ones we already have.
“The FA Cup, Scottish Premier League and Europa League rights will allow us to offer customers of BT Sport even more quality live football, including our first games from the Scottish top flight and our first European competition rights. There will also be the best of US sports available courtesy of this deal, which will further broaden the appeal of BT Sport.”
Ross Hair, managing director, ESPN – Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “We could not be more proud of the TV channels built and nurtured by our talented team over the past four years. The value of that hard work is reflected in this deal with BT and the continuation of ESPN on television screens across the UK and Ireland. The same passion, commitment and innovation will be at the heart of how we develop our strong digital media business into the future.”
Completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory clearance.
Separate from the agreement with BT, ESPN is proposing the wind down of ESPN Classic throughout the EMEA region and the non-UK ESPN America TV businesses.
ESPN, Inc., is the world’s leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment company featuring a portfolio of more than 50 multimedia sports assets. The company is comprised of eight U.S. 24-hour television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, ESPN 3D and Longhorn Network) and five HD simulcast services (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS and ESPN Deportes). Other businesses include ESPN Regional Television, ESPN International (35 networks, syndication, radio, digital), ESPN Radio (broadcast, satellite, digital, a growing category led by ScoreCenter), ESPN.com (plus a variety of sport-, college-, and market-specific sites), ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Enterprises and espnW. Multi-screen offerings include WatchESPN (access to several ESPN networks online and via an app), ESPN3 (live multi-screen network available online, on the go and via Xbox LIVE) and ESPN Mobile (mobile Web, mobile TV and video, apps, alerts and messaging). Based in Bristol, Conn., ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The Hearst Corporation holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN.
About ESPN International
ESPN International is a division of ESPN, Inc., which has grown to include ownership — in whole or in part — of 35 television networks outside of the United States, as well as a variety of additional businesses that allow ESPN to reach sports fans in over 184 countries and territories across all seven continents. ESPN International business entities include television, radio, print, internet, broadband, wireless, consumer products, and event management. The company and its holdings maintain offices or production facilities in key locations around the world including Bangalore, Buenos Aires, London, Mexico City, Miami, Melbourne, Mumbai, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, and Toronto. Since 1983, ESPN (founded in Bristol, Connecticut, in 1979) has grown around the world, establishing itself as the leading global sports media brand. The company’s philosophy to global growth is to always serve sports fans and be locally relevant to them, with content and products that tap into their great passion and dedication.
In the UK and Ireland, ESPN and ESPN America bring sports to 3.5 million households.