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Sky Sports shares hit by UEFA Champions League rights loss

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Shares in British Sky Sports Broadcasting PLC have taken a battering after rival BT PLC snatched the UK television rights to European Champions League football, Europe’s top club competition.

The loss of the rights, which it had shared with terrestrial broadcaster ITV PLC, represents a big blow for the satellite broadcaster as it has built its business over the past two decades largely on the back of its acquisition of sports rights.

Many argue soccer rights are the main reason why the broadcaster has around 10 million subscribers.

Investors are worried Sky Sports (BSkyB), whose biggest shareholder is Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc., one of the two units created following the split of News Corp., will face additional financial pressures to maintain its array of sports rights.

BSkyB shares were down 10 per cent Monday at STG8.40 pence ($A14.41), meaning around 1.48 billion pounds $US2.4 billion ($A2.56 billion) has been wiped off the value of the company.

“With analysts and commentators describing this as a game changer, finding reasons to own BSkyB seem harder to come by today than before,” said David White, a trader at Spreadex.

This isn’t the first time BT, the former nationalised British telecommunications company that only launched its sports television channels in August, has grabbed soccer rights.

Earlier this year, it bought a package of English Premier League rights that it hopes will help it grow its broadband business – Sky, though, retains the lion’s share of those rights.

It has along with public broadcaster BBC bought the rights to the FA Cup, the world’s oldest domestic soccer competition.

BT’s capture of European soccer’s Champions League, though, is a far more notable achievement and represents the most high-profile defeat for Sky since its own audacious capture of English Premier League rights in 1992.

The competition, won last season by Germany’s Bayern Munich, features Europe’s leading teams and runs alongside domestic competitions on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

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