Sky Hits Back At BT Sport By Poaching Television Rights To Top 14 Rugby
The ceasefire between Sky and BT over European rugby "proved short-lived on Thursday night after Sky Sports confirmed it had poached coverage of France's Top 14 from BT Sport," according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Having lost both Champions League football and Premiership rugby to its "newest and bitterest" rival, Sky "hit back in kind by signing a five-year contract with Ligue Nationale de Rugby for the richest domestic competition in the game, starting next season." It is the first time that BT has surrendered one of its sports properties to Sky, "with its decision to commit only to a one-year deal opening the door for the latter to swoop for a 55-match package and enabling it to show more live rugby next season than ever before" (TELEGRAPH, 4/18). The agreement means next season Sky will show 360 live rugby union matches plus 20 days of Sevens matches from around the world -- more than ever before. The deal is the latest in a series of long-term rights announcements by Sky Sports this year, including British & Irish Lions Tour 2017, PGA Tour Golf, Indian Premier League cricket, Scottish Football and Super League rugby (Sky Sports). ESPN's Martin Williamson wrote "the agreement between Sky Sports and BT Sports to share European rugby from next season was one born out of necessity and not so much a cease-fire as a pause to reload." The news that Sky has poached Top 14 rights from BT is, in view of that, "hardly surprising" (ESPN, 4/18).