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Discovery confirms exclusive talks with BT Sport on Joint Venture

BT Group said it is aiming to conclude the exclusive discussions with Discovery, in the early part of Q1, with a view to the new company becoming operational later this year

In the latest twist in the on-going future of BT Sport saga, Discovery has announced it has entered exclusive talks with the UK broadcaster to create a new sport venture by combining its Eurosport business in the UK and Ireland with BT Sport.

The companies said the 50:50 Joint Venture to be operational in 2022 pending a definite agreement and regulatory approval.

In its own statement, BT said the combined business would “remain committed to retaining BT Sport’s existing major sports broadcast rights, while BT Sport customers would get access to Discovery’s sport and entertainment content, including the discovery Plus app”.

“We are excited about this opportunity with BT Group to offer consumers a stronger and simplified combined sport offering in the UK and Ireland, and, more broadly, to advance our strategy of bringing sports and entertainment to more consumers on the platform of their choice,” said JB Perrette, president & CEO of Discovery Streaming and International. “We are aligned with BT Group on a shared vision to maximise the value and appeal of our respective UK sport assets, and we look forward to concluding a deal in the coming weeks.”

Mark Allera, CEO BT Consumer, added: “The proposed joint venture with Discovery, Inc. would create an exciting new sports broadcasting entity for the UK and would act as a perfect home for our BT Sport business. With a shared ambition for growth, as well as the combination of our world class sports assets along with Discovery’s premium sports and entertainment content, our customers will benefit from even more content in more places.”

BT Group said it is aiming to conclude the exclusive discussions with Discovery, in the early part of Q1, with a view to the new company becoming operational later this year, subject to completion of the deal and approval by the relevant competition authorities.

BT first announced plans to “explore ways to generate investment, strengthen our sports business, and take it to the next stage of its growth” in April last year. There has been much speculation that DAZN would buy BT Sport, with reports last month suggesting it had agreed a deal worth £582 million to acquire the broadcaster.

However, in December rumours of an attempt by Discovery to hijack DAZN’s attempts to buy the broadcaster began to swirl with the suggestion it was interested in entering a Joint Venture between the two which would pool their respective sports content.

At the time, analyst Paolo Pescatore told TVBEurope: “A tie-up with Discovery could be more attractive for both parties. This potentially feels more like a strategic partnership which will help BT take the sport business to a new level. For Discovery it will very much boost its sports presence, which is gaining momentum thanks to the Olympics and increasing focus on streaming with Discovery Plus.”

In its own statement, DAZN’s chairman Kevin Mayer said the company remains committed to growing its business and investing in the UK.

“On this occasion, however, the deal for BT Sport became uneconomical for DAZN,” he added. “However, we respect that BT chose a different strategic path and wish BT, BT Sport and Discovery all the best for the future.”