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SBD Global/August 20, 2013/Media

BT Sport's First Live Premier League Game Has Strong Showing, But Still No Match For Sky

ManU's 4-1 win over Swansea on Sky got the weekend's top rating.
BT Sport's first live Premier League broadcast, Liverpool's 1-0 win against Stoke, averaged more than 400,000 viewers on Saturday -- "less than a quarter of the audience for Sky Sports' Swansea v Manchester United coverage," according to Jason Deans of the London GUARDIAN. This was BT Sport's "only programme to trouble the pay-TV ratings top 20 on Saturday or Sunday." Sky, however, "showed the greater depth of its live rights portfolio and larger subscription base with numerous top 20 placings on both days," including coverage of Europe's women golfers securing their first Solheim Cup win in the U.S. Liverpool vs. Stoke averaged 447,000 viewers and a 5.1% audience share between 11:30am and 3pm local time on Saturday, with a five-minute peak of 764,000. This was more than 1,000% up "on the fledgling channel's average share in the slot and the fifth most popular show on pay-TV on Saturday" -- the top four were all on Sky Sports. The top rating pay-TV program on Saturday and Sky Sports' best performer over the weekend was live coverage of ManU's 4-1 win at Swansea, "which averaged more than 2 million simulcast across Sky Sports 1, pay-TV entertainment channel Sky 2 and free-to-air entertainment service Pick TV" (GUARDIAN, 8/19). In L.A., Stuart Kemp reported BT Sport CEO Simon Green noted in a statement the figures from audience research company BARB "don't tell the whole story" as the telecom giant has "hundreds of thousands of customers who can watch via platforms that BARB doesn't capture" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/19).

VIRGIN BOOST: In London, Daniel Thomas reported almost half of the households that watched BT’s Premier League debut "used the rival cable TV platform owned by Virgin Media." They "did so under a wholesale agreement struck late last week between BT and Virgin Media." The latest figures also mean that only about one in four of the potential audience of 1 million homes "either paid for BT broadband or BT Sport to watch the former national monopoly’s first game." In terms of total audience, BT attracted 629,000 viewers, of which 43% were Virgin customers. Analysts said that the numbers "were respectable given the newness of BT’s platform and the fact that only slightly more viewers watched an equivalent game shown by Sky last season" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/19).

COMING TO AMERICA: NBC earned a 0.8 overnight for its debut Premier League match on Saturday afternoon, which featured ManU-Swansea City. Washington, D.C. topped all U.S. markets with a 2.2 local rating. NBCSN on Saturday aired two games (Liverpool-Stoke City and Arsenal-Aston Villa) and the three-game average for NBC Sports Group was a 0.5 overnight. ManU-Swansea City also marked the best overnight in U.S. history for an EPL opening weekend match (Austin Karp, The Daily). In D.C., Steven Goff wrote "one thing is certain," and that is the EPL, "regarded as one of the most popular global sports brands, has never had an American stage like this before." NBC is "promoting Premier League coverage as if it's the NFL." Among NBC's challenges is "introducing the league to casual viewers without insulting sophisticated fans" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/17). In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald spent Saturday morning at NBC Sports' HQs to watch the production and wrote, "I came away quite impressed, as so many television viewers did." There are "certain sporting events you can broadcast with a half-measure, but NBC was committed to not doing so for this." (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/18).
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