LONDON -- While rival Vodafone is seeking to expand its footprint in Europe by eyeing up fixed-line ventures to complement its mobile telecommunications operations, BT Group is remaining closer to home with its own primary expansion plans, after acquiring Disney-owned ESPN's U.K. and Ireland television channels to form a serious competitor to British Sky Broadcasting.
Under the terms of the deal, ESPN's rights to show the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League, Bundesliga, and Europa League will be among those transferred to BT, while the U.S. sports currently shown on ESPN America -- including college basketball, college football, and NASCAR -- will also be shown on BT's new channels. Additionally, at least one of its channels will continue to carry the ESPN name.
BT's push into the televised sport market continues, having recently swooped for big-name presenters to front its show already, including Clare Balding and Jake Humphrey from the BBC. The company had previously bought the rights to broadcast 38 Premier League games a season for three years from August 2013, including 18 prestigious "first pick" games, whereby the company will have the option of the weekend's best games.
Indeed, in news mirroring that of the above agreed last year, both BT and Sky have today secured new deals with the Premier League for more than 150 live matches per year -- 38 and 116 games, respectively -- for broadcast in the Republic of Ireland.
Hitting a five-year high of 281 pence last week, BT Group's shares has been on a roll since 2009's low point of 72 pence, representing an almost fourfold return. They have since fallen slightly to today's price of 268 pence, but on a forecast yield of 3.4%, a strategy that could set the company up for further growth and rival in Vodafone that the market isn't fully backing, this could be a share for both income and growth to carefully monitor in the coming months.
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