BT bosses have insisted they won’t get into an open-ended bidding war for the next set of Premier League broadcast rights.
The broadcaster is the contest’s junior rights holder, showing 42 games per season compared to Sky’s 126 matches, and augments its football coverage with exclusive coverage of the Champions and Europa Leagues.
It also holds exclusive UK rights to the Aviva Premiership Rugby, Australian cricket, UFC and, most recently, boxing coverage through its tie-up with Frank Warren’s Boxnation.
BT Sport has been credited with revitalising the firm’s pay-TV platform which has doubled its customer base since 2012, as well as boosting take-up of its fibre broadband packages and cutting customer losses.
The firm’s latest market update confirms that viewing figures across the suite of BT Sport channels is up 8% compared to last year, with Premier League audiences up 2% and those for the Champions League growing by 16% – a boost BT credits to six British teams qualifying for the group stage for the first time since the 2007/08 season.
Asked on Thursday about the role of the Premier League in achieving growth and retention targets, BT CEO Gavin Patterson said the rights “are important” and BT would “undoubtably play a role in the auction,” but insisted the firm would “remain very disciplined” when bidding.
This message was reiterated by Marc Allera, head of BT’s consumer division, who said content was a key way of “to differentiate your offering” from other communications providers but added his team were “clear what price we’re prepared to pay for these rights and we will not pay more.”
Alluding to reports that new bidders, such as Amazon or Netflix, could enter the fray at the next rights auction, Patterson said the firm was “prepared for a scenario…where someone takes us on”.