LONDON (Reuters) - Telecoms provider BT (BT.L) will show English FA Cup football on its new British sports TV channels until 2018, boosting its programme line-up as it prepares to challenge BSkyB's BSY.L dominance of the sector.
As part of the deal, the publicly-funded BBC also gets the right to show FA Cup games from 2014 to 2018, replacing commercial broadcaster ITV (ITV.L).
Financial terms of the deal with the Football Association (FA) were not disclosed. BT will launch its new sports channels at the start of August. It has committed around 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) to the project and already secured a share of Premier League broadcasting rights alongside BSkyB.
While competition for sports rights grabs the headlines, the underlying struggle is to win over consumers in the triple play market - the bundling of pay TV, telephone and broadband.
The entry of BT into the market as a deep-pocketed rival to BSkyB has driven up the value of sports rights.
"They have millions of customers and are shaping up to be a heavyweight player in the broadcasting world so the FA Cup is a fantastic asset for their growing portfolio of sports," FA Chairman Greg Dyke said in a statement.
BT had already acquired the FA Cup rights for the 2013-14 season after buying out ESPN's UK business. ITV (ITV.L) shares the FA Cup rights under the contract that expires next year.
BSkyB has used sports rights to build a pay-TV business with more than 10 million subscribers over the past two decades.
BT, seeking to defend its leadership in the broadband market, has taken a leaf out of BSkyB's book with its aggressive entry into the sports rights market.
Writing by Keith Weir; editing by Andrew Callus and Tom Pfeiffer