Could ITV bring the Champions League back to free-to-air TV?



ITV and Sky are being touted as potential future rights holders for the Champions League.

Ahead of the auction of the 2021-2024 UK broadcasting rights, both ITV and Sky are reportedly preparing to mount a "serious" challenge to end BT Sport's dominance, according to The Times.

Both broadcasters are seeking to end BT's six year control over live Champions League games. BT took over the rights in 2015, back when its sports channels were just two years old and when the telecoms company was bidding high to gain a foot in the market.

ITV's proposed bid could provide a return of selected live games to free-to-air television from August 2021, although the majority of games would continue to be shown on pay TV.

ITV and Sky jointly held rights to the Champions League until the 2014-2015 season final.

The 2015-2018 broadcasting rights saw all live matches go to BT Sport. As part of a clause in the contract, BT made a small number of games each season available on a free-to-air basis via its temporary Freeview channel BT Showcase and online. Highlights were screened on ITV.

The current 2018-2021 rights do not contain any free-to-air obligation, resulting in BT closing down BT Showcase in Spring 2018. Since then, the Champions League has found itself having a much lower profile in the UK. Other large markets, such as Germany, have also seen Champions League matches go completely behind the paywall in recent years.