BBC and ITV face fight for free-to-air FA Cup after losing TV rights to TNT Sports

BBC presenter Gary Lineker as part of their FA Cup coverage
FA Cup matches will be back behind a paywall from next season - Getty Images/Oli Scarff

The BBC and ITV have lost the rights to the FA Cup to TNT Sports and now face a fight to sub-let them from the pay-TV network.

The world’s oldest cup competition will go back behind a paywall – at least in part – from the season after next after Warner Bros Discovery struck a four-year deal with the Football Association to show a record number of ties.

It included a commitment to make matches from every round free-to-air, either in partnership with a terrestrial channel or via its own platforms.

Telegraph Sport has been told sub-letting those rights to the BBC or ITV is the most likely outcome, which would mean one of them losing coverage of one of sport’s crown jewels and one of their few live football properties.

Discovery’s deal is similar to that which saw it snatch the exclusive rights to the Olympics from the BBC almost a decade ago, since when it has entered into a partnership with the corporation.

The new FA Cup contract will see every match from the third round onwards televised live except those played during the Saturday 3pm blackout.

The deal also includes the rights to the Community Shield and the FA Youth Cup semi-finals and final.

Mark Bullingham, FA chief executive, said: “The Emirates FA Cup is our crown jewel, and it helps us to provide vital investment across every level of English football, supporting clubs, communities, facilities and the wider grassroots game. Every season, and across every round, The Emirates FA Cup creates incredible moments and unforgettable memories for fans, and this new partnership will see selected matches shown live on TNT Sports, as well as free-to-air, from the first round of the competition through to the final at Wembley Stadium.

“TNT Sports are an outstanding broadcaster with an impressive record of showing some of the biggest and best sporting events around the world, so we are delighted to be working with them on our shared commitment and long-term vision that will ensure the Emirates FA Cup continues to thrive over the coming years.”

Andrew Georgiou, president and managing director Warner Bros Discovery UK & Ireland and WBD Sports Europe, said: “TNT Sports is proud to partner with the FA to present more matches of the world’s most prestigious domestic cup competition than ever before alongside our great line up of the Premier League and Uefa Champions League and club competitions, bringing even more live football to our TNT Sports customers.

“The Emirates FA Cup and the incredible stories it creates every season goes well beyond football, making TNT Sports the perfect home as we continue to tell the stories that matter most to the fans. We have a huge amount of respect for the place that this world-famous competition has in the hearts of football fans and that’s why continuing to ensure we maintain a level of free-to-air coverage is important for us and the FA.”

The BBC and ITV’s loss of the rights to the FA Cup comes amid a growing threat to their hold on those for rugby’s Six Nations.

Barbara Slater, the outgoing BBC director of sport, warned in November that it faced a battle to keep hold of the tournament, telling MPs it had become increasingly difficult for the corporation to retain the rights to major sporting events.

Slater’s ITV counterpart, Niall Sloane, admitted his own channel may face a fight to keep hold of exclusive rights to the Rugby World Cup amid concerns it, too, may not remain entirely on terrestrial television.

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