Warner Bros. Discovery and BT to Launch Sports Venture in U.K. and Ireland

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Warner Bros. Discovery and telco giant BT are to launch a premium sports venture in the U.K. and Ireland. The planned 50-50 joint venture will see BT Sport transferred to Warner Bros. Discovery, meaning that BT Sport and Eurosport U.K. are operated together.

BT Sports’ parent company BT plc will receive £93m ($113 million) from Warner Bros. Discovery and up to approximately £540m ($659 million) by way of an earn-out if conditions are met. Warner Bros. Discovery will be granted a call option over BT plc’s interest in the new venture. It may exercise this at specified points in the first four years of the venture.

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The venture will have one of the most extensive portfolios of premium sports rights including UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, the Premier League, Premiership Rugby, UFC, the Olympic Games, tennis Grand Slams featuring the Australian Open and Roland-Garros, cycling Grand Tours including the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia and the winter sports World Cup season.

BT Sport and Eurosport U.K. will initially retain their separate brands and product propositions before being brought together under a single brand in the future. The date for that was not disclosed. The transaction itself is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close by the end of this year.

Customers who access BT Sport through BT directly, and the majority of BT TV customers, will receive Discovery+, the non-fiction entertainment streaming service which is home to Eurosport’s live and on-demand streaming offer in the U.K. and Ireland, as part of their existing subscriptions.

The companies said that, as at 31 March 2022, the value of the gross assets of BT Sport being transferred was £339m. It recorded an operating loss for the year of £222m. At the same date, the value of the gross assets of Eurosport UK’s rights and distribution agreements contributed directly to the JV was £12m. It had an operating profit for the year of £16m.

Other financial details include the agreement that, “BT plc and Warner Bros. Discovery will each enter into distribution agreements with the JV to become the official UK distributor of the JV’s sports channels across both sets of platforms. BT plc’s agreement with the JV will extend beyond 2030, and for the first four years, includes a minimum revenue guarantee of approximately £500m per annum, after which the agreement will change to a fully variable arrangement.”

The joint venture will also enter into a new agreement with Sky extending beyond 2030 to provide for its distribution of the venture’s combined sports content.

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