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BT to broadcast next season's Scottish Premier League

BT will broadcast next season’s Scottish Premier League after acquiring ESPN’s UK channels and sports portfolio.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory clearance, removes any uncertainty surrounding ESPN’s involvement in the SPL.

The acquisition, which is expected to be completed on July 31 2013, will see BT take over the ESPN and ESPN America channels as well as the group’s live sports portfolio, which includes the FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and German Bundesliga.

BT Sport will now broadcast SPL matches for the next four seasons, until the summer of 2017.

Marc Watson, chief executive of television, BT Retail, said: “We are delighted to have reached agreement with ESPN for the acquisition of their UK channels business and that we have been able to add some exciting new sports rights to the ones we already have.

“The FA Cup, Scottish Premier League and Europa League rights will allow us to offer customers of BT Sport even more quality live football, including our first games from the Scottish top flight and our first European competition rights. There will also be the best of US sports available courtesy of this deal, which will further broaden the appeal of BT Sport.”

The Scottish Premier League has welcomed the acquisition.

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: "We look forward to working closely with BT from the beginning of next season.

"Today's announcement is positive for the Scottish game.

"It means that top-flight football will continue to be broadcast by Sky Sports and now BT, providing a solid financial bedrock and the best possible platform to promote the game in Scotland."

ESPN announced a five-year agreement with the SPL in August last year, which gave them the right to screen 30 matches as well as 10 Rangers games in the Irn-Bru Third Division.

Ross Hair, managing director, ESPN – Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “We could not be more proud of the TV channels built and nurtured by our talented team over the past four years. The value of that hard work is reflected in this deal with BT and the continuation of ESPN on television screens across the UK and Ireland. The same passion, commitment and innovation will be at the heart of how we develop our strong digital media business into the future.”

BT will operate at least one ESPN-branded channel after the deal is finalised, which is expected to form part of the BT Sport TV package that will launched this summer.

The service for current ESPN subscribers will remain unchanged until completion of the acquisition.

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