COVID impact: BT Sport boss on value of sports rights

BT Sport boss Simon Green is forecasting a slowdown in the rise of the value of sports rights as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause financial carnage.

The network is one of boxing’s biggest supporters in the UK – it has a contract with promoter Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, airs all of lineal world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury’s bouts in the UK and has a consistent schedule of domestic shows.

While not mentioning boxing specifically, Green – head of sport at BT – does see something of a reset coming for sports rights as a whole on the back of the pandemic.

“I personally believe that Covid-19 will cause a correction in the markets for television sports rights which will mean the value will not rise as it has done in the past,” he told The Guardian.

“I think everyone will be more discerning about what they pay given that the country is facing a potential recession which could leave viewers with less money in their pockets.”

Green says while the future at the moment is extremely difficult to predict, the impact of COVID-19 will mean BT will look closely at every future rights tender to make sure it provides the value it assigns.

He explained: “We want to be able to offer customers value and while it is impossible to say exactly what will happen, there will be a different approach. At BT, we will look at every tender-right that comes along and value it accordingly. What the lockdown highlighted was the importance of live sport: when it returned with the Bundesliga, our audience over three channels was 750,000 compared to 100,000 before.”

Fury vs Joshua fight poster
Fury and Joshua are expected to meet next summer.

BT of course is expected to be a major player if and when Fury and Anthony Joshua meet as hoped to unify the world heavyweight titles – it would be the biggest bout in British boxing history. Sky Sports currently broadcasts all of Joshua’s bouts.

Just last week Warren sent a public message to rival promoter Eddie Hearn’s (whose Matchroom Boxing has a contract with Sky Sports), calling for a series of high-profile bouts featuring fighters from both stables. He said BT Sport was firmly behind the concept – which found favour with boxing fans in the UK desperate to see the best fight the best.