BT nears deal to flog sport unit to DAZN for $800M – report

BT is rumored to be closing in on a solution for BT Sport, with a Reuters report suggesting that sports streaming service DAZN is on the verge of signing a deal to buy the unit for an estimated $800 million.

The report said a deal could be signed this month, although a transaction has yet to be finalized and could still fall apart. Sources told Reuters that it has not been easy to secure agreements with rights holders as well as with Sky and Virgin Media O2, which distribute BT Sport's programming in Ireland and the UK.

It has certainly been no secret that BT is seeking a partner or buyer for the unit, which it is fair to say has not performed as hoped. DAZN has already been cited as an interested party, along with Amazon, Discovery and Disney.

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Reports suggest that negotiations with DAZN have been protracted and close to failure at times. Indeed, only last week there was speculation that Discovery had moved into pole position as takeover candidate. The US media company, which owns Eurosport and already has a TV presence in millions of UK homes, apparently offered to form a joint venture with BT.

Now it seems that DAZN has edged ahead, although clearly the situation could change in the coming days and weeks. Sources told Reuters that DAZN, which is backed by billionaire investor Len Blavatni, currently has around 11 million subscribers. That compares to BT Sport's 5 million viewing households, according to Enders Analysis.

Fiber focus

A sale of BT Sport would support the UK operator's current fiber and 5G rollout program: Last year, BT increased the target for its fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network from 20 million to 25 million premises by December 2026.

Although BT Sport has suffered during the pandemic, and the acquisition of TV sports rights is certainly an expensive play, BT has not confirmed that it absolutely intends to sell the unit.

BT CEO Philip Jansen even seemed quite bullish about the venture last year after BT renewed its broadcast agreement in principle with the Premier League for another three years. In May 2021, he told analysts that BT Sport was in a "good position, [it has] got complete clarity on its rights now. And we want to think, how do we make the most of BT Sport commercially?"

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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