BT Sport have announced that they have extended their rights for the Champions League and Europa League until 2021, in a deal worth around £1.2bn.
The previous deal, running from 2015 through to the end of this season, cost them £897m, and had been criticised for meaning that most football fans are unable to watch the games live, although ITV showed highlights, while BT screened occasional games on their free-to-air channel BT Sport Showcase and via btsport.com.
Well, the bad news for those of you without a subscription is that it’s going to be even worse, since the new deal is completely exclusive, meaning zero coverage on ITV. However, the broadcaster has said that it will make clips, weekly highlights, and both finals available to watch for free on social media.
The move comes as something of a surprise, since there had been rumours that UEFA was considering a return to some games being shown on a free-to-air channel, after reported complaints from their sponsors, who had been concerned by the ‘dismal’ viewing figures for matches, including those streamed and shown on their Freeview channel. In April last year, it was reported that UEFA had viewed the deal as ‘a mistake’.
Clearly something – and we’re taking a wild stab in the dark here but it might be the £1.2bn – has led Uefa to change its mind and persist with BT Sport.
While host Gary Lineker was happy:
Others were not:
While others revealed their strategy for dealing with the free-to-air blackout:
Europe’s top four domestic leagues (England, Spain, Germany and Italy) will be guaranteed four places each in the group stages from the 2018-19 season, meaning an end to the traditional play-off for
Arsenal the fourth-placed team in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, next season will see the introduction of ‘double header’ nights in the group stage with matches kicking off at both 18:00 and 20:00 UK time. So, for those of you lucky enough to be able to afford BT Sport, you’ll at least have a feast of football to watch on Champions League nights.