Sports Ticker (20 May 2022) - Rugby World Cup, BT x Warner Bros Discovery merger and the end of EA x FIFA's partnership- a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 20 May 2022

In a fortnight which saw Jake Daniels become the UK's first active male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay – sparking significant support from across the sport, the agreed sale of Chelsea FC for £4.25 billion, and Rob Edwards join Watford FC amidst some discontent from his (soon to be) former club Forest Green, we feature updates on the Rugby World Cup, BT and Warner Bros Discovery pay-TV deal, and the end of a 30-year partnership between EA and FIFA. We also provide updates on the BBC and Talksport's purchase of Premier League audio rights and F1's increased fan base following the success of Drive to Survive.

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Rugby World Cup: hosts with the most

The World Rugby Council has announced the next five nations to host the men's and women's Rugby World Cup – a move which will provide “unprecedented certainty” to those involved. The women's World Cup hosts are England (2025), Australia (2029) and the United States (2033), with the men's tournament also being hosted by Australia (2027) and the United States (2031). Key figures in the sport have, however, flagged the issue of timetabling which is likely to cause problems in the run up to the US tournaments – particularly in an attempt to avoid clashes with the NFL season. If the timetable changes, this could mean either shorter preparation time for the World Cup participants or several game-weeks where club teams are without their international players.

BT and Warner Bros Discovery partner up on new premium sports offering

BT and Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) are merging sports streaming businesses to provide a premium offering in the UK and Ireland. This deal will create one of the most extensive portfolios of sports rights ranging from the Premier League and Champions League to Premiership Rugby, UFC and the Olympics. The 50:50 joint venture, operated by WBD, will bring together BT Sport and WBD’s Eurosport UK under a single brand, although both brands will be retained for now. Once the deal is completed, BT will receive payments over three years totalling £93 million and further performance based pay-outs over a period of four years up to about £540 million.

Electronic Arts and FIFA call it quits after 30-year video game partnership

As foreshadowed in Ticker 50, Electronic Arts (EA) has announced it is ending a 30-year partnership with FIFA. The announcement comes after months of attempted negotiations between the video game company and football governing body, in which the parties were locked in a dispute over the value of the FIFA brand. It is reported that FIFA makes approximately US$150 million per year from the partnership, its largest commercial deal outside running the men’s World Cup. The game has sold more than 300 million copies in over 50 countries during the partnership and has generated more than US$20 billion in sales. EA will rename its iconic game “EA Sports FC” after the women’s World Cup next summer, having registered a trade mark last year in preparation for the partnership ending.

 BBC and Talksport secure UK live audio rights from the Premier League

The Premier League has completed the sale of its live radio commentary in the UK to both the BBC and Talksport for the next three seasons, with the deal ending in 2025. The new deal continues the existing one with the pair which was set to end following the conclusion of the 2021/22 season. The BBC will have first pick of Saturday 3pm kick-off matches with Talksport taking second pick. The BBC will also broadcast any matches that kick off at 5:30pm on Saturdays or 2pm or 4:30pm on Sundays. The news comes as fans prepare to watch Man City FC and Liverpool FC battle it out in their respective games this weekend, to decide who will take the 21/22 season title.

Netflix confirms Drive to Survive set to return for two more seasons

In the run up to the Miami Grand Prix, Netflix announced that Formula 1: Drive to Survive will be returning to screens for another two years as the show is renewed for Seasons 5 and 6. The hit show was first released in 2019, and has become a sensation across the world, landing in Netflix's weekly Top 10 in 56 countries. Season 4 attracted the biggest audience yet, with the premiere alone seeing an increase in viewings of 60% on the season 3 premiere. According to research carried out by Nielsen, Drive to Survive has created more than 360,000 new US F1 fans. Although no release date has yet been given, filming for Season 5 is reportedly underway and is anticipated to debut in 2023 at the earliest.

Extra time...

…and finally, for the first time in its 140-year history, two female boxers have headlined at Madison Square Gardens. Ireland's Katie Taylor and Puerto Rican Amanda Serrano combined in an instant classic to a sell-out crowd in a fight which Taylor described as “history making”. The Irishwoman was the undisputed lightweight champion going into the ring, against seven-weight champion Serrano, and Taylor edged Serrano on points difference with a split-decision victory to retain the world number 1 title. The build-up was dominated by the significance of the event, with fight promotor Eddie Hearn describing the contest as “the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight of women’s boxing”, and marked a significant step-forward for the sport.