We will set up a dazzling new European rugby tournament, says BT Vision CEO
Following Tuesday’s announcement that BT Vision had paid UK£152 million for a package of Premiership Rugby rights, the company's chief executive, Marc Watson, has revealed his rugby strategy in an exclusive interview with SportsPro.
The rugby rights are the second major acquisition BT Vision has made this summer, having startled the industry with a surprise swoop for two key packages of English Premier League rights in June.
Both deals kick in from the beginning of the 2013/14 European soccer and rugby seasons.
"We want a channel that is a must-have channel for sports fans," Watson told SportsPro. "We saw in rugby an opportunity to own a sport exclusively, certainly at club level, and the rights that we’ve bought give us an opportunity to do that.
"We have the English Premiership; we think there’s lots of great potential there. And we are looking to set up, or at least help set up, a dazzling new European tournament, with a fantastic new format, with, we hope, all the best clubs. And we’ve secured, from the English Premiership, the rights to that for the UK. That tournament will be the successor to the Heineken Cup, which is a very successful tournament.
"The Heineken Cup runs until the end of next season. Our English Premiership rights kick in at the same time as our Premier League football rights next August. The Heineken Cup under its current contract has another season to run and that will be the end of it, and we’re looking to set up a brand new tournament from then. And we’ve already secured the rights to that.
"We see a great opportunity there. We’re hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2015 in the UK. It’s a great opportunity in the two years running up to that, we think, to grow the sport and for the first time rugby will appear in the Olympics in Rio in 2016. It’s a sport that’s got a long way to go. We were attracted by the idea of growing with it, and helping it to grow in the UK.
"Also, of course, with this deal comes a lot of very good live sport. It complements the football that we’ve bought very well from a scheduling perspective and it will help us to create, we think, a good, compelling channel, with good live sports over the course of the weekend and during the week, and over the course the season. And it will also help us to both deepen and broaden the appeal of the channel across the UK marketplace."
Responding to Watson's comments after this story had been published, Heineken's global sponsorship manager Tim Ellerton said, "European rugby already has a dazzling tournament with a fantastic format - it's called the Heineken Cup and we are proud sponsors of that for over 17 years already."
The full, comprehensive interview with BT Vision chief executive Marc Watson, in which he recounts how the English Premier League rights were won, and sets out his strategy for the future, will appear in the October broadcast special issue of SportsPro magazine. Subscribe here.
Addendum: Following a handful of articles in the daily press that may have misrepresented Watson's comments from this interview, he is pleased to clarify that when he talked about ownership of the sport, he was referring to ownership of the broadcasting rights, not the administration of the sport.blog comments powered by Disqus
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