Business

BT loses TV rights for 'ultimate fighting' and NBA basketball

Mike Perry vs Paul Felder in a UFC match Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption BT will continue to broadcast UFC until 3 December

BT is understood to have lost the rights to broadcast NBA basketball and UFC ultimate fighting after walking away from a bidding contest.

"We won't bid any more than the rights are worth to us," a spokesperson for the telecoms giant told the BBC.

The move comes weeks after BT lost the rights to Italian Serie A football.

The firm spends around £1bn a year on sports rights, such as Premier League and Champions League football, a sum which some investors have criticised.

BT's sports channels will continue to show NBA Basketball until the end of October and UFC until 3 December.

The loss means BT's sport channels will show fewer popular sports, but the firm's spokesperson said it was focusing on gaining more subscribers for its offering as well as "investing in more broadcast innovations."

They said the firm had "long-term deals in place for our core content" including "great football, rugby and boxing next season".

Marc Allera, head of BT Consumer, told the Financial Times that the strategy for BT Sport - which launched five years ago - had moved on from its initial "emotionally driven start-up mentality".

"It's like a big football club in the transfer window. If a striker is worth £50m I won't pay £70m for him. At the wrong price, everything is expendable," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Patterson led BT for 5 years before stepping down last month

Shareholders have been agitated for some time about the cost and direction of BT Sport, something which in part led to the departure of chief executive Gavin Patterson last month.

Mr Patterson led BT for five years and under his direction the firm established itself as a major sports broadcaster, with the rights to screen a significant number of Premier League games.

But the firm was criticised for spending money in this way, and not on improving both the breadth and speed of its broadband coverage.

Last month, Neil Wilson, chief market analyst for Markets.com, said BT's "expensive move into football rights was a mistake", because it had failed to lead to a rise in new subscribers for the firm's TV offering.

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