FOOTBALL: ITV and Sky retain Champions League rights

  • ITV reverts back to 1st pick matches on Tuesdays
  • Sky Sports retains all other matches
  • Both broadcasters to share the final & UEFA Super Cup
  • New deal comes with EU warning

ITV and Sky Sports have retained the rights to show Champions League games in a new three-year £400m deal starting from the 2012/13 season.

UEFA have confirmed that the distribution of live matches between the two broadcasters will be unchanged from the existing deal.

The only significant change sees ITV switching its live game back from Wednesdays to Tuesday nights.

But future UEFA rights deals could be under threat if an EU ruling, which has the potential to force a major shake-up in the sale of TV rights across Europe, goes against them.

Status Quo

ITV has secured exclusive rights to 18 Champions League first choice live matches on Tuesdays and highlights on the same night, along with mobile and online rights.

The terrestrial broadcaster’s switch back to Tuesday was made with a view to having more consistent scheduling, given that most international football games are held on Tuesday nights, according to an ITV spokesperson.

Sky Sports has acquired the rights to broadcast 129 live matches each season – including all matches on Wednesdays and all bar one of the matches on Tuesdays, as well as highlights on both nights and mobile/online rights.

Both broadcasters will cover each stage of the competition, from the play-offs through to the final.

ITV’s Controller of Sport, Niall Sloane said: “The UEFA Champions League continues to set the benchmark for sports competitions across the world and has been a hugely successful part of the ITV1 schedule over many years.

“We’re delighted to be extending this long relationship and to have agreed a new deal in which ITV1 will continue to broadcast the competition free-to-air, and ITV will also have increased opportunities to bring the Champions League to viewers across our online and on-demand platforms.”

Barney Francis, Managing Director of Sky Sports, said: “Sky Sports offers the most comprehensive coverage of the UEFA Champions League.

“We introduced the exceptional quality of HD, then increased the number of live matches and have now pioneered 3D broadcasts. The UEFA Champions League goes from strength to strength and we look forward to extending our relationship with UEFA.”

ITV has a long association with the UEFA Champions League having broadcast coverage since the tournament’s inception in 1992. 

Audiences for matches shown on ITV1 in this year’s knockout phase of the tournament have averaged 6.3 million viewers so far, according to figures.

Sky Sports started screening the tournament in 2003, after securing the rights in a joint deal with ITV, which saw ITV show two matches on Tuesdays, with the rest on Sky.

The satellite broadcaster tightened its grip on the competition from 2009, when it grabbed ITV’s second choice match, in a fiercely contested battle for the last remaining first pick match.

The terrestrial network hung on to it’s first pick but was forced relinquish the rights to screen Formula 1 to the BBC on the same day in order to pay for those lucrative rights.

Threat to future deals from EU ruling

But there is a cloud hanging over new the TV deals, and all other future sports rights deals, negotiated within the European Union.

Europe’s top clubs could face a major drop in their income from the competition if a European ruling goes against them.

Currently UEFA and all governing bodies negotiate TV rights territory by territory.

But William Gaillard, adviser to UEFA president Michel Platini, said a European Court of Justice (ECJ) case could force a major shake-up in the sale of TV rights across the continent.

Gaillard told Press Association Sport: “This may force us to sell the rights on a Europe-wide basis, which would prevent us from identifying individual national TV pools.

“That will be bad news for clubs in big TV markets such as England.”

The Premier League also fear the case – their legal battle against Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy who has used a Greek satellite decoder to screen live matches – could affect their TV income.

The European Union’s advocate general Juliane Kokott has already advised that the case means that selling TV rights in separate countries within the EU goes against European law.

The case is now being dealt with by the ECJ with a decision expected in the late summer.

At the moment, UEFA splits Champions League payments among the 32 clubs in the group stage, half depending on far they progress and half on the value of their country’s TV deals.

The current £400million deal with Sky and ITV for the UK rights is the biggest in Europe and has seen English clubs earn between £20million and £35million annually from the Champions League alone.

Beyond 2015, the future is uncertain.