ITV could soon hold the rights to air the Champions League once again, meaning that fans would finally be able to watch games on terrestrial TV for the first time since 2015.
This would be a welcome boost for ITV, which saw a 6% decline in viewing hours last year as more and more people move to streaming services for their content. Live sport is always a major pull for viewers, and ITV received nearly 13 million viewers when it covered the Rugby World Cup final.
For the past five years, football fans have been forced to subscribe to either Sky Sports or BT Sport –– and for the first time last year, Amazon Prime –– in order to see any matches.
BT Sport picked up the exclusive rights in 2015 for a tidy fee of £897million, finally moving top European football exclusively to pay-TV services and off terrestrial TV.
In November last year, they upped their bid and spent £1.2 billion to retain the rights to the Champions League –– as well as the Europa League, and the newly-formed Europa Conference League –– until 2024.
Fending off competition from both ITV and Sky to win the contract, BT is now also entitled to sell the rights on to a rival broadcaster. This means that BT could, in effect, sub-lease airing rights to certain games to broadcasters like ITV in order to offset some of the cost, while still holding the rights to the games of their choice and making a BT Sport subscription vital for serious football fans.
However, when ITV and BT competed for the rights to FA Cup matches last year, ITV emerged as the joint rights holder with the BBC from 2021. Further collaboration could come in the form of a potential investment by BT in Britbox, the joint ITV/BBC streaming service launched in 2019, with BT-owned set to be the exclusive mobile partner for the platform.
BT Sport currently costs £25 per month, but can be accessed directly via the BT Sport app for £10 per month, and includes access to Premier League games, UFC and Heineken Cup rugby. In contrast, Britbox is currently priced at £5.99 per month.
If you’re looking to get BT Sport, try bundling it with these BT broadband & TV packages.