Report: ITV in UEFA Champions League sub-licensing talks with BT Sport

Report: ITV in UEFA Champions League sub-licensing talks with BT Sport
UK commercial broadcaster ITV is holding talks with rival BT Sport over the prospect of buying a portion of the pay-TV network’s UEFA Champions League rights, according to a report by the Sunday Times newspaper.

Last November, BT Sport retained its exclusive rights contract for European soccer’s premier club competition until the end of the 2023/24 season, paying UK£1.2 billion (US$1.5 billion) in a deal struck with UEFA’s sales agency, Team Marketing.

However, after losing out on the original rights tender, ITV bosses are now apparently in discussions with BT executives in a bid to sub-license a package of games, with telecommunications firm’s deal with UEFA affording it permission to sell on rights packages.

Any such deal would see the Champions League return to UK free-to-air TV for the first time since 2015, when BT outbid joint rights holders ITV and pay-TV network Sky Sports to exclusively secure broadcast rights to Europe’s elite club soccer tournament.

Returning the Champions League to ITV would be a major coup for the broadcaster, which experienced a six per cent drop in viewing hours during 2019, despite attracting strong viewing figures for its Rugby World Cup coverage, including 13 million viewers during the final on 2nd November.  

The negotiations come after ITV outbid BT last May to become the UK’s joint rights holder for the FA Cup, English soccer’s domestic cup competition, alongside public-service broadcaster the BBC.

BT Sport also holds exclusive UK rights to matches played in the Europa League, UEFA’s second-tier club competition, and also the Europa Conference League, the governing body’s newly-formed third-tier tournament, due to begin at the start in 2021/22.

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