BT TV football coverage puts the wind up BSkyB. "In space no one can hear you churn".
In a move that will cause BSkyB serious concern, the telco has taken the TV sports market by the scruff of its hitherto expensive neck and given it a damned good shaking. BT has succeeded in gaining the rights to show 38 live Premier League matches per season for at least the next three years and in so doing has broken BSkyB's stranglehold on the televising of top notch football in Britain. The first match that the telco will broadcast to its broadband user base will be on August 17. BT will also broadcast UK FA Cup games and football from the Brazilian, French, German, Italian leagues as well as Scottish Premier League action. Joy will be unconfined.
Sky, with its deep pockets and huge reach, has had a de facto monopoly over the provision of Premier League fixtures for more than 20 years now and the unexpected competition from a telco is the first real challenge to BSkyB's sporting coverage hegemony since the satellite company launched back in 1990.
Sky will continue to show Premier League football (and many more matches that BT will be broadcasting) and it will continue to charge a hefty premium to its audience for the privilege of watching them.
However, BT, which is practicing what it has been preaching and is demonstrating its determination to become a bona fide broadcaster by spending more than £1 billion over the next three years to secure rights to show major sporting events to its broadband base in Britain and Ireland.
The BBC and some independent commercial television companies used to show many big and important football matches as well as live Test Match cricket and other major sporting events but lost out to BSkyB's ability to pay monstrously huge sums to obtain the broadcasting rights. Competitors simply couldn't afford it and now the BBC can broadcast only a handful of what might best be described as 'heritage' events such the FA Cup Final and one or two other 'national' sporting occasions.
BT has licenses for three TV channels , BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and the recently acquired ESPN in the the UK and Ireland.
BT Broadband packages start at £10 a month for what is described as "standard" connection and £15 a month for"superfast" fibre-optic cable access, where it exists - and that certainly is not yet across the whole of the UK and Northern Ireland. BT customers will not have to pay anything extra to see football or any other sporting events that BT will provide. The telco is spending a lot on Rugby Union as well as football.
Other users will be able to view games on tablets and Web TVs via the BT Sport app.
BT, making as much noise as it can about what could be a real and ling-lasting challenge to Sky (others such as Setanta and ESPN tried to take on the giant and failed in the attempt) with the Chief Executive of BT, that man-of-the-people, Ian Livinston, grandiosely claiming that the telco is "giving football back to the nation", adding, "UK sports fans have had a rough deal for too long. M,any have been priced out of the market, but we will change this by giving away BT Sports free with our broadband offerings."
BT says its customers churning to it from Sky will save a hundred pounds or more a year by making the switch.
Unsurprisingly Sky is scornful of the BT initiative, at least in its public pronouncements, but there can be little doubt that behind closed doors executives will be very worried indeed. BT's move could, if you'll excuse another sporting pun, be a game changer - especially if BT reaches a distribution agreement with the likes of Virgin Media and Talk talk, both of whom offer Sky channels to their consumer bases.
Virgin Media says, “We’re always looking to bring the best possible value and breadth of high quality content to our customers and we’re talking to BT about how we could make the forthcoming BT Sport package available.”
Meanwhile, munching away on a big bunch of sour grapes, a Sky spokesperson tried to spin the story against BT for all it is worth (and it is worth a lot). He said, "BT Sport is not free and customers are smart enough to realise they'll pay for it through more expensive broadband and phone services. For us, sport isn't a marketing gimmick to promote another product". Nay, nay, thrice nay. and perish the thought, Sky would never, ever do anything like that
The spokesperson continued ," We are long-term supporters and our sustained investment has benefited sports fans and British sport at all levels" However he failed to mention that Sky has made made millions from providing coverage via what is, effectively, almost a monopoly in some sporting areas. Neither did he talk about the fact that Sky charges a premium on those who want access to Premier League football and other big sporting events.
BT will operate its TV channels from a new site at the London Olympic showground so there might yet be a bit more life inside the East London venue which on many a weekday seems to be all but deserted.