BT has lost the rights to broadcast Italian Serie A football matches in the UK to ambitious rival Eleven Sports, representing a further blow to its sports strategy.
The loss means there will be less top-level content on BT’s sports channels, a key part of its growth strategy to gain more subscribers in the battle with rival Sky, after taking a back step in the recent Premier League auction. In the past year new digital players have entered the market for sports rights.
Eleven Sports, which is owned by Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani, the owner of Leeds United football club, already acquired the rights to broadcast La Liga matches in the UK from Sky in May. Eleven has already launched a digital subscription service in some European countries but it is unclear how it intends to show the matches in the UK.
Multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation said that Eleven has signed a deal with IMG, the international sports rights company, which owns the broadcasting rights to Serie A matches. The rights kick in from next season, according to a person with knowledge of the deal, and coincide with the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in a deal worth €100m which is expected to increase interest in the Italian leagues.
Eleven Sports and BT declined to comment.