The media landscape is surely changing. More so the sports broadcasting. Global digital platforms are emerging as a big threat to the traditional sports broadcasters. The digital platforms’ threat is so big that first it made media czar Rupert Murdoch sell his empire to Disney and now another unthinkable tie-up has happened.
The UK broadcast market leaders who till date were tough competition to outbid each other for the market share and sports media rights have come together to hold hands to negate the emerging threat from digital space giants Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, and Google.
Sky and BT have signed a deal to sell their channels on each other’s platforms. The unimaginable deal has been weaved in to recoup investments in sports content, with web players including Amazon threatening to challenge them for the key rights.
Under the deal, BT will now supply its sports channels, which show UEFA Champions League and Premier League football, to Sky.
In addition, BT will be able to sell Sky’s Now TV service, which includes Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, and the Sky Atlantic channel, to its customers.
The deal comes as the firms face growing competition from online rivals.
Marc Allera, the chief executive of BT Consumer, told the BBC that the deal was partly so the firms could join forces against the potential online threat. “A lot of technology companies are coming into the market with vast budgets and changing the market. We need to ensure our customers get the best choice,” he said.
In a complex market, potential rivals can also be partners, he added. The Sky deal was a “clear indication” of the importance BT attached to the way digital and TV markets were converging. The firm would bid fiercely for exclusive content.
Bidding is due to begin in the next Premier League football rights auction in February, and digital giants such as Amazon and Facebook could throw their hats in the ring for streaming rights. The threat seems to be real as Amazon has already grabbed ATP and few other rights for the territory.
BT has spent more than £3.5bn on Champions League and Premier League football rights since 2012 in an attempt to compete with Sky.
For the 2016 to 2019 football seasons, BT agreed to pay £960m to show 42 Premier League games, and Sky agreed to pay £4.17bn to show 126 games.
For the seasons from 2019 to 2021, the number of games shown could rise to 190.
The big online firms have been part of a seismic shift in how people access content.
On Thursday, Disney announced a deal to buy a large chunk of 21st Century Fox, including its 39% stake in Sky.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has admitted in an interview that he was selling Fox’s entertainment assets in part due to the rise of digital media giants.
The game for the broadcast is changing fast. The players’ formations are bound to change.