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SBD Global/April 22, 2013/Media

U.K. Football Fans 'Could Be The Losers' In Battle For EPL Rights Between BT, Sky

In the Premier League, an "exchange of insults is taking place in the broadcast booths," and British fans "could be the losers," according to Eric Pfanner of the N.Y. TIMES. BSkyB and BT "have been battling for position off the field, exchanging a few barbs in the process." This month, BT "complained to regulators after Sky blocked BT from advertising its new sports channels on Sky Sports." Sky said that "it should not be forced to carry ads for a rival service." The two companies "are also battling each other over access to pubs" -- a lucrative business, because some bars pay thousands of pounds a year for the right to show Premier League matches, "which often pack the house with thirsty customers." The appeal of Premier League football was demonstrated last week when NBCUniversal said that "it had signed a three-year U.S. broadcast deal" worth an estimated $250M. BT CEO Marc Watson said, "People would be mistaken, however, if they think this is just about TV or sport. Broadband is the real battleground here." British fans "are watching the latest fight closely because it could make it more cumbersome for them to follow their favorite teams." While NBCUniversal will carry all 380 Premier League matches live on various channels in the U.S., BT and Sky together "will show fewer than half as many games in Britain, because of an arrangement intended to maintain ticket sales at soccer stadiums." For the past few seasons, British fans "were at least able to catch all the live games offered by Sky and ESPN with a single subscription," because ESPN made its broadcasts available to Sky to resell to its customers. Sky and BT "are talking to each other about a similar agreement." If BT and Sky are unable to reach a deal, viewers who want to see all the available games "might have to take out two separate subscriptions" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/21).
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