The Champions League is set to vanish from terrestrial TV following BT Sport’s £1.2bn deal for the rights to show Europe’s top football competition.
Lasting until the end of the 2020-21 season, the deal will also cover the Europa League and means that ITV will lose the right even to show highlights from the games.
BT will screen match highlights but it’s possible that some rights could be sold onto another UK broadcaster.
However, BT has said that it would make clips, weekly highlights and both finals available to watch for free on social media.
Last year’s finals were streamed live on YouTube.
BT customers, already facing price hikes for the cost of broadband and calls, can expect further increases following the agreement, which is worth £394m per year, a 32% increase on BT’s current £299 million-per-season deal.
New back-to-back game times
However fans are likely to be irritated by a new 6pm and 8pm “double-header” kick-off times for the midweek games.
BT hopes to drive viewers to pubs signed up to BT Sport subscriptions but the early start means many will still be at work or on their commute home.
BT, which is using heavy investment in premium sport to attract and retain broadband customers, is believed to have outbid ITV and Sky, which owned the rights until 2013, for the contract.
Broadband customers were notified in January that they would be paying £3.50 a month for BT Sport for the first time, with call charges also rising, the latest in a series of hikes.
John Petter, chief executive of BT’s consumer business, said: “We are paying more, but we’ve got a lot more for it.”
BT to harness social media The telecoms group said it had secured the rights until the end of the 2020/21 season “following a competitive auction process”.
UEFA is believed to have expressed concern that viewing for matches had nosedived under BT Sport.
But the premium price offered, along with a greater commitment to expanding the social media audience, swung the deal.
Guy Laurent Epstein, Uefa’s marketing director, said: “BT have delivered strong audiences in the UK and we are excited about their future plans for the use of social media which will engage a growing fanbase that consumes sport in different ways.”
Europe’s top four domestic leagues are to be guaranteed four places each in the group stages of the Champions League from the 2018-19 season.