Sports broadcasting newcomer BT has beaten BSkyB and ITV to the rights to screen Champions League matches from 2015, paying almost £900m for the contract. But what will the switch mean for consumers?
How much will this cost me?
Too early to say. BT has not yet released its prices and its coverage does not start until 2015-16.
Do I have to subscribe to both Sky and BT?
You don't have to subscribe to either. But if you want to watch every weekend of the Premier League, plus all the Champions League and Europa Cup, then yes. However, if Champions League is your thing, then you won't need Sky at all from 2015-16.
As a non-paying television viewer will I be able to watch the Champions League?
Yes. As part of the negotiations, Uefa insisted that some matches, including both finals, were shown free-to-air in order to preserve the value of its sponsorship deals and ensure that they could be seen by a wider audience. Under the current agreement, one game in every round of Champions League matches is shown on ITV, as well as some Europa League games. BT has promised that every participating British team will be shown free at least once a season to non-subscribers. Also, ITV could yet pick up a highlights package.
How many games will it involve?
BT will show all 350 matches in the Uefa Champions League and Europa Cup.
What does watching live Champions League currently cost?
According to the price comparison website USwitch, digital television viewers can get Sky Sports included on a broadband, television and telephone deal from a minimum of about £40 a month. For current Sky subscribers, adding Sky Sports costs an extra £22 a month.
Obviously, watching ITV's less comprehensive coverage is free, save the cost of a television licence. You can also watch matches for the cost of a couple of pints in pubs showing Sky Sports. BT has been strongly attacking the pubs and clubs market already to push its Premier League coverage and is sure to repeat that approach for the Champions League, as it provides publicans with an effective way of promoting their venues during quieter midweek winter evenings. Bookmaking shops may also take a service from BT.
Will Sky get cheaper without the Champions League?
It's too early to say for sure, but it seems unlikely. For the first time there is real competition in the UK sports pay television market, which a cursory reading of economic theory suggests should force prices down for viewers. However, competition cuts both ways. There is clearly more demand to acquire the rights, which is likely to keep forcing prices up. Those rights have to be paid for.
What does it mean for Sky's Premier League coverage?
Sky currently has rights to show 116 Premier League games a season until 2015-16. It paid a total of £2.3bn for the matches, and gets 20 weeks a season where it gets its choice of games. Little will change from the subscribers' perspective until the 2016-17 season. Sky may retain the most attractive packages, but for the moment it seems to have a more serious rival that may attempt to expand the number of games it can show. Until 2015-16, BT has invested £738m for rights to 38 live Premier League matches a season, including 18 "first picks".
Will there be a talent drain from Sky to BT?
Possibly eventually, but that is a long way off. It is easy to forget that Sky hasn't got to its current position by being staffed by second-raters. It still has far better sports content than BT and behind the scenes employs lots of very capable media people, unaccustomed to finishing second. The business is sure to react.
Is this likely to result in a pay boom for clubs and is that a good thing?
Champions League holders Bayern Munich collected £47.3m in prize money and TV income last season. Ironically, the growing gap between rich and poor is widened by Uefa's new Financial Fair Play rules, designed to calm football's overheating finances by forcing clubs to break even. But because the biggest clubs bring in the most revenue, boosted further by their Champions League earnings, some fear that the upper echelons of the game could become even more of a closed shop than at present.
How does it work in other countries?
Germany, Italy, France and Spain all currently have similar Champions League broadcasting set-ups to the UK, with a mixture of free-to-air and pay television providers. Late last month Modern Times Group (MTG) became the first broadcaster in Europe to agree a deal with Uefa for the latest batch of rights between 2015 to 2018. Like BT, it will be the single provider of free-to-air and pay services.