With the much hyped mega bid from Amazon failing to materialise, some have moved swiftly to cover their blushes by reframing discussion of the Premier League auction as a battle between Sky and BT in which the second of these emerged fundamentally weakened.
But I’m not sure that’s justified.
While BT would surely have preferred to retain its current 5.30pm slot, it’s secured at least 32 games (40 more are still up for grabs) which will sit nicely alongside its exclusive Champions and Europa League coverage, possession of which means BT Sport remains a ‘must have’ channel for many football fans.
And its non-football rights – including Aviva and European Rugby, its Boxnation deal and Australian Cricket – give it a wider appeal that ensures its BT TV platform has enough sport at a wallet-friendly price to be be seen as a viable option for those reluctant to pay Sky’s prices.
So, while it may see smaller audiences for some Premier League matches post 2019, there’s no reason to assume the firm will see mass cancellations because of the outcome of this week’s auction.
Nor is its hand markedly weaker as it negotiates with Virgin Media which needs to secure continued access to BT Sport in order for its own services to remain competitive.
On which note, it’s worth remembering that BT got into the sports broadcasting business mainly because it couldn’t secure access to Sky’s sports channels on terms it felt were commercially viable.
But the previously announced content cross-supply deal means that’s no longer the case.
By the time the new Premier League deal kicks in, it’ll be able to sell BT TV customers the full suite of Sky Sports channels on flexible terms and with an overall bundle price that’s likely to be lower than the cost of signing up for a Sky contract.
Put another way – BT didn’t need to keep bidding up the price of content it had already secured access to, and its shareholders are unlikely to have thanked Executives for doing so.
Instead they’ve done enough to ensure they remain one of only two sizeable UK pay sports broadcasters and, through their AMC partnership and innovations such as 4K coverage, retain enough exclusivity for their own platform to remain competitive against their rivals.