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ITV enters running for BT Sport acquisition?

ITV enters running for BT Sport acquisition?
© Reuters
ITV reportedly emerges as a serious contender to take a stake in BT Sport.

ITV has reportedly emerged as a contender for taking a stake in BT Sport in a move that could see the Champions League - and possibly top-flight football - return to free-to-air television.

Telecoms giant BT has appointed investment bank Lazard to explore the possibility of selling a stake in BT Sport as it instead focuses investment in its high-speed broadband services.

Launched in 2013 as an effective replacement for Disney-owned ESPN in the UK, BT Sport has an impressive portfolio of sports rights, including Premier League games, the Champions League, the Europa League, Germany's Bundesliga, France's Ligue 1, the FA Cup and Premiership rugby, among others.

Initial interest in BT Sport is believed to have come from Disney, Amazon Prime Video and streaming service DAZN, and The Telegraph now reports that they have been joined by the UK's largest commercial broadcaster ITV.

ITV and BT already work together on the Youview service, while BT is said to have previously considered investing in BritBox, ITV's joint-venture streaming service with the BBC.

The news of a potential tie-up, which could see some of BT's games broadcast on ITV's channels, comes more than 18 years after the embarrassing collapse of ITV Digital.

The pay-TV service - a predecessor to Freeview - was forced into administration after ITV's big-money bet on rights to the Football League failed to pay off, leaving scores of clubs in severe financial trouble.

A 50% stake in BT Sport has been valued at £500 million by some analysts, although the company is said to be open to the prospect of an outright sale if the conditions are favourable.

In a stock market announcement on Thursday, BT said: "Further to media reports, BT can confirm that early discussions are being held with a number of select strategic partners, to explore ways to generate investment, strengthen our sports business, and help take it to the next stage in its growth. The discussions are confidential and may or may not lead to an outcome."

Shares in BT stood at 165.1p at the close of business on Friday, up 6.5% on Monday's opening price of 154.9p.

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CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States22251764
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia12211750
Great BritainGreat Britain11121235
Today's Olympic highlights header

Monday's key events

· There are no Brits in the women's 100m hurdles final, but Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, fresh from breaking the Olympic record in the semis, will hope to pip world record holder Kendra Harrison to gold (3.50am)
· The women's 5000m final also has no Team GB representation, but two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya will be looking to add an Olympic gold to her list of honours (1.40pm)

· The women's skiff 49er FX (6.33am) and men's skiff 49er (7.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races

· A place in the women's gold medal match is up for grabs, starting with an all-North American semi-final between United States and Canada (9am)
· Australia, who edged past Team GB's in a seven-goal quarter-final thriller, take on Sweden in the second semi-final (12pm)

· The track cycling schedule gets underway, with Team GB holding a particular interest in the team pursuit qualifying. Laura Kenny is part of the women's team (7.54am), while the men's team includes Ed Clancy (9.02am)

· The Gadirova twins Jessica and Jennifer will both take part in the women's floor final as they look to add to their team bronze (9.57am)

· Newly-crowned European champion Emily Campbell flies the flag for Great Britain in the women's +87kg, but faces stiff competition for medals from China's Li Wenwen and New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard (11.50am)

· The women's hockey quarter-finals begin, with Team GB last up against Spain (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full