DAZN, a startup backed by billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik, is in “advanced” discussions to buy BT Sports and a deal could be announced within weeks, the Financial Times reported. The story sent shares in BT climbing 2.7% in London.
A spokesperson for BT said the company was continuing to explore options for BT Sport and all options were on the table.
The deal would be a significant coup for DAZN, a London-founded startup that has been called the ‘Netflix of sport’ in the press. DAZN offers subscription sports streaming services and has made its name in combat sports like boxing and UFC, as well as NFL. Despite being founded in London, the company has a smaller footprint in the UK than in North America.
A deal to buy BT Sports would significantly expand DAZN’s reach in Britain and hand the company rights to Premier League matches.
DAZN’s chair Kevin Mayer, a former Disney and TikTok executive, recently hinted that the company was interested in buying football rights.
“I would love to see the Premier League on DAZN in the future,” Mayer told a conference, according to Deadline. “It’s a huge market, incredibly popular sport, high quality experience, of course we’d want that.”
DAZN was founded in 2015 and is majority owned by Blavatnik, the Ukrainian-born billionaire owner of Warner Music. Blavatnik, who originally made his money in oil, has an estimated net worth of $37 billion (£27 billion), according to Forbes.
The most recent set of accounts for DAZN, covering 2019, show the company had revenues of $877 million that year and income was growing at an annual rate of 75%.
Any sale of BT Sport would bring an end to the telecoms’ giants ambitions to compete with Sky in the pay TV market. BT launched the service in 2013 and, while the channel has helped to stem an exodus of customers, the bidding war for sports rights has been hugely costly and the service has attracted relatively few stand alone subscribers. BT said in April it was holding discussions with potential bidders on a partial or full sale of the business.