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BT Sport tackles Sky over soccer rights

Reporting by Wilfred Frost, writing by Arjun Kharpal
Soccer rights auction 'challenge' for Sky: BT exec

Sky will find it a "challenge" to retain the rights to televise all of the lucrative English Premier League soccer matches in the next round of auctions for the games, the head of rival BT Sport told CNBC.

BT Sport shook up the live sport broadcasting market, previously dominated by Sky Sports, in 2012 when it launched a £738 million ($1.2 billion) bid to show 38 Premier League games per season between 2013 and 2016.

John Petter, CEO of the consumer division at BT, the unit in charge of BT Sport, said Sky would struggle to keep the rights to the 116 games per season it holds at the next auction slated for next year.

Read MoreBT gains over 3%, as sports, broadband lift results

"It's quite a challenge for Sky because Sky have the biggest possible holding you can have - 116 games - and they've seen how BT's bid in previous auctions," Petter told CNBC.

"The question for them is, given the high prices that they charge, can they hold on to what they have? Because any outcome apart from keeping hold of the 116 games that they have is really a real problem for them."

Sky did not respond to a request for comment.

Record spending

BT has been accused by its rivals of paying over the odds for the Premier League rights and pushing up prices. Last November, BT made a further foray into the soccer world by signing a £897 million three-year deal to broadcast live Champions League and Europa League football matches from 2015. These leagues showcase the best clubs in Europe in one tournament and were previously shown by ITV and Sky.

Read MoreBT trumps Sky to show Champions League matches

Olivier Giroud of Arsenal jumps to head the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage on August 24, 2013 in London.
Getty Images

The latest Premier League season kicked off two weeks ago with an increasing amount of money being spent by clubs. Teams spent £835 million buying new players this summer, over 30 percent up on the previous record of £630 million set last summer, according to Deloitte. Getting the rights to a league that showcases the best talent in the world is big money for broadcasters.

Sky 'missed opportunity'

But Petter, speaking to CNBC just over a year after BT Sport was launched, claimed a victory over Sky by acquiring the rights to show Manchester United's highly-anticipated first game under the club's new manager Louis van Gaal.

"Our first game of the season was the first game for Louis Van Gaal. And there's been a lot of mystique about the picks process, largely I think created by Sky, I can't think how they missed that opportunity," Petter said.

BT Sport 'hasn't been a giant killer': Pro

"We had the story of the weekend and I think you'll see us doing more of that."

The so-called "pick process" is a complex procedure related to how broadcasters can pick what games they want. Showing the right games at the right time is crucial to drawing in the best audience.

BT giant killers?

But some analysts suggests BT's entrance into the live sport broadcast market has not been that ground-breaking. BT's original deal gave the company the rights to many Saturday lunchtime matches which do not draw as big an audience as the evening or Sunday games.

Read MoreBT defends soccer spending: 'We haven't overpaid'

"What's really interesting is that in fact the launch of BT Sport has had a positive impact on BT but it has had no negative impact on its competitor," Alice Enders, CEO of Enders Analysis, told CNBC in a TV interview.

"In fact that way that people perceive BT Sport as a giant killer…and that there would be devastating changes in those businesses as a result of the launch of free sport, we haven't seen those impacts at all."

- Reporting by CNBC's Wilfred Frost, writing by Arjun Kharpal