BT has boosted its portfolio of sports rights with the purchase of Disney’s UK and Ireland ESPN business.
Last June the UK telco won rights to show 38 live Barclays Premier League games per season for three years, including 18 of the best quality ‘first pick’ games.
BT followed the acquisition by signing Jake Humphrey to front its Premier League coverage and announced deals to to show Rugby Premiership matches and games from a number of international football leagues.
The company has also signed a deal with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to show up to 800 hours of live tennis, including the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships.
On Monday the company ended days of speculation by confirming it had reached a deal to buy the ESPN and ESPN America channels and their sports rights portfolio which includes the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Europa League, and German Bundesliga.
BT also gains access to show sports currently shown on ESPN America, including NCAA College Basketball, NCAA College Football and NASCAR.
Under the deal, which is expected to complete on July 31, 2013, BT will continue to operate at least one ESPN-branded channel.
It, along with the BT Sports channels, will be produced and based at the Olympic Broadcast Centre, located at the heart of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Marc Watson, chief executive of television at BT, 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.:
Watson said the rights included in the deal “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.”
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.”
ESPN will continue to operate its portfolio of sports news websites, including espn.co.uk, but will close its ESPN Classic and non-UK ESPN America TV businesses.