BT Buys Premiership Rugby TV Rights To Step Up Pressure On BSkyB

BT has stepped up its battle against BSkyB by adding Premiership rugby to top flight football on its forthcoming sports channel.

In one of the biggest broadcast deals in the history of club rugby, BT has the rights to show Aviva Premiership games from the 2013-14 season, in a four-year deal worth £152 million, the Press Association reported.

The rugby deal comes soon after BT paid to screen Premier League football matches

In an attempt to attract subscribers from BSkyB and Virgin Media, BT is expected to sign further deals for the right to broadcast additional sports later this year to build a competitive sports channel offering.

The rugby deal, which current rights-holders BSkyB and ESPN are thought to have considered overpriced, comes after BT forked out £738m to gain a 38-game-a-season foothold on Premier League football coverage.

Marc Watson, chief executive of television service BT Vision, said: "BT is serious about sport and this deal means we will be offering the very best rugby action alongside some of the most thrilling football matches from the Premier League. That is a winning combination and one that will appeal to fans of both sports."

The agreement covers exclusive live broadcast rights to up to 69 rugby matches per season at a time when the Rugby World Cup is due to be staged in England, in 2015, as well as rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

BT will launch its sport channel through BT Vision which will offer new interactive features but will be available on other platforms.

BT shares on the FTSE 100 Index rose 2% following the announcement, while BSkyB shares dipped by just under 1%.

Under the Premier League football deal, BT bought the rights to matches that kick off at 12.45pm on a Saturday and for bank holiday and midweek games.

Long-term Premier League partner Sky paid £2.28 billion to secure the rights to show 116 games a season

Mark McCafferty, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, said: "This is a game-changing agreement and will deliver a service that I know our club supporters will enjoy."