Warner Bros. Discovery’s Planned Sports Venture With BT Sports Draws UK Probe

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A British government watchdog agency announced plans Wednesday to investigate whether telco company BT Group’s proposal to merge its sports TV business with Warner Bros. Discovery in the U.K. hurts the competitive marketplace it was created to protect.

In May, Warner Bros. Discovery and BT Group unveiled plans for a new sports endeavor for the small screen that would see BT Sport and Eurosport U.K. folded into the same operation. The joint venture aims to provide a new premium sports offering to consumers.

This would provide the new venture with one of the most complete catalogs of premium sports rights ranging from UEFA Champions League, the Premier League, UFC, the Olympic Games, the Australian Open, Europa League, the Tour de France, the winter sports World Cup season and more. In response, the CMA is investigating whether this joint venture would hurt competition.

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“The Competition and Markets Authority is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services,” the organization said.

The deadline for Phase 1 of the investigation, which launched June 1, is July 28. At that time, the CMA will announce whether it will open a second phase of the probe. The regulatory body has invited comment through June 17.

The 50/50 joint venture proposed bringing BT Sport and Eurosport U.K. under a single brand in the future and reaching a new distribution pact with Sky that extends beyond 2030. At the time of the merger’s announcement in May, the two companies said a completion by the end of 2022 was expected.

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