BT Group (LON:BT.A) is set to lose the broadcast rights to the popular UFC ‘ultimate fighting’ and NBA basketball after walking away from the bidding, the Financial Times has revealed. The news marks another blow for BT Sport following news that the company had also lost the rights to broadcast Italian Serie A football matches in the UK.
BT’s share price has slipped into the red in today’s session, having given up 0.42 percent to 235.00p as of 14:24 BST. The stock is underperforming the broader UK market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index currently standing 0.07 percent higher at 7,707.02 points.
BT loses UBS and NBA basketball rights
The FT reported yesterday that BT Sport had withdrawn from negotiations to broadcast NBA basketball games and UFC fights. The newspaper quoted Marc Allera, head of BT Consumer, as saying that the strategy for the sports division had matured from having an “emotionally driven start-up mentality” when it launched five years ago to a more clinical assessment of the value it derives from each sport.
“It’s like a big football club in the transfer window. If a striker is worth £50 million I won’t pay £70 million for him,” he pointed out, adding that everything was expendable “at the wrong price,” referring to future rights auctions and its commitment to exclusive content.
‘Hard to say exactly what’s going on’
Proactive Investors quoted Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, as commenting that it was “hard to say exactly what’s going on”.
“Until the new CEO is installed we cannot read too much into the loss of these rights; it may be a strategic retrenchment or just a bit of extra discipline whilst the new boss is found,” he pointed out. BT has been looking for a new chief executive, with Gavin Patterson due to step down later this year.
Senior executives within the company meanwhile told the FT that BT Sport was no longer considered a ‘core’ element of the telecoms company’s consumer offering, with more effort and resource now devoted to improving the telco’s network and customer service.