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Report: Discovery eyes BT Sport joint venture as DAZN talks stall

US broadcaster offers BT a plan B as it seeks to exit the sports broadcasting market.

6 December 2021 Steve McCaskill
Report: Discovery eyes BT Sport joint venture as DAZN talks stall

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  • BT and DAZN had been discussing reported UK£600 million sale
  • Discovery has owned Eurosport since 2015 and has Olympic rights
  • BT would eventually sell its stake in proposed joint-venture

US media giant Discovery has emerged as a surprise contender for pay-TV broadcaster BT Sport, proposing a joint venture that would see the two companies combine their respective sports rights in the UK, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

BT wants to exit the sports broadcasting market after nearly a decade and has reportedly been in talks with sports streaming service DAZN for several months. DAZN is doubling down in key markets and is eager to establish a UK presence as it looks to expand beyond subscription revenues into other areas like betting, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and ecommerce.

BT Sport’s vast customer base, coupled with the essential Premier League rights needed to crack the UK market, make it an ideal target for DAZN.

The Telegraph says BT has grown frustrated with the pace of discussions, which have been slowed by concerns about DAZN’s streaming capabilities and how to share the commercial risks of a sale.

BT launched BT Sport back in 2013 to protect its broadband business and is reportedly concerned that subscribers might leave for a rival provider if DAZN relinquishes certain sports rights. According to the report, BT wants DAZN to commit to maintaining a certain portfolio, while DAZN wants telecommunications firm to promise to cover the costs of any lost subscribers that would make the UK£600 million (US$795 million) asking price look like a bad deal.

The ensuing stalemate has seen Eurosport owner Discovery enter the fray. While this would not give BT the clean exit from the market that it desires, it would allow the company to focus on its rollout of fibre and 5G networks. The suggestion is that it would look to eventually sell its stake in any joint venture.

Meanwhile, Discovery would immediately be catapulted into the top tier of the British sports broadcasting landscape, controlling a vast rights portfolio that includes the Olympic Games, Uefa Champions League, and the Premier League.

“BT can confirm that discussions are being held with a number of select strategic partners, to explore ways to generate investment, strengthen our sports business, and help take it to the next stage in its growth,” a BT spokesperson told SportsPro. “These discussions are confidential.”

Discovery and DAZN declined to comment.

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