Since last year, there’s been plenty of talk about streaming company DAZN buying UK broadcaster BT Sport (a division of multinational telecom giant BT, formerly British Telecom) with discussion of that starting last summer and with those talks described as “advanced” as early as last September. However, that deal has never appeared a certainty, especially with December’s reports that BT had also been talking to Discovery. Now, though, it does feel like the DAZN/BT deal is becoming more likely, with Reuters’ Dawn Chmielewski and Paul Sandle reporting Wednesday that the deal could close as early as this month (although they add that it’s still not finalized):
Sports streaming service DAZN is nearing a deal to acquire Britain’s BT Sport in an estimated $800 million transaction that will give it access to sought-after rights to the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League matches, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
A deal is expected to be reached as soon as this month, after protracted negotiations that became public last fall, the sources said. The transaction has yet to be finalized and could still fall apart, they added.
…Discovery is still in discussions though DAZN is viewed as the leading contender at the moment, according to two of the sources.
Again, this situation has changed rapidly in the past, and this is not yet being reported as a done deal. But it is notable that the reported deal is getting closer, and that Chmielewski and Sandle’s sources have DAZN ahead of Discovery. The Discovery approach wasn’t necessarily just a straight purchase, but rather a possible joint venture; the DAZN approach is a sale. And that would be notable for both sides; it would give BT some cash for its 5G rollout (and take some pricey rights fees off their books), and it would make DAZN much more important in the UK, especially in soccer. They’ve found some success there with boxing content, especially around Anthony Joshua, but a deal involving BT’s Premier League (52 matches per season), Champions League and beyond rights would make them a much bigger UK player.
This also seems to fit in with the larger recent talks of DAZN’s focus on a global strategy, which have grown since former Disney exec Kevin Mayer took over as chairman last March. Despite plenty of talk, they have not yet managed to take a lot of top U.S. rights outside of boxing. But they have much bigger rights in many of the countries that they operate in. And this deal would definitely make them a more notable UK presence, and an important destination for UK soccer fans. We’ll see if it comes to pass.