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SBD Global/May 1, 2014/Media

BT Extends Free TV Sport Offer For British Broadband Customers For Second Season

BT has extended its free TV sport offer for U.K. broadband customers.
BT "will provide its sports channels for free to British broadband customers" in the next football season, extending an offer made when it launched last August as a rival to Sky, the dominant pay-TV company, according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Former state telecom company BT is investing around £2B ($3.4B) on sports rights, adopting Sky's "trusted model of using sporting content to attract customers." BT Consumer Business head John Petter said, "The great news for fans is that BT Sport will remain free with BT Broadband for another season." BT said that "around 5 million homes were taking the service." BT said that "it was attracting average audiences of 774,000 for its Premier League games, most of which are shown on Saturday lunchtimes" (REUTERS, 4/30). In London, Daniel Thomas wrote BT "will maintain pressure on rival" Sky by offering free sports coverage. The group said that its BT TV platform had reached 1 million customers, adding about 146,000 in the first three quarters of the financial year, "which appears slow growth for a service first launched in 2006 with an initial aspiration to win over more than 3 million homes within its first four years." The BT TV platform "includes those customers watching through YouView, the Internet TV service that BT backed alongside TalkTalk and a range of broadcasters." Analysts expect that "BT will need to shift strategy over time to help repay the investment, especially if it participates in the next auction of Premier League rights expected to begin at the end of this year." BT has already said that "it would charge customers to watch the Champions League games it acquired in auction last year," which will begin showing in '15 (FINANCIAL TIMES, 4/30). MEDIA WEEK's Arif Durrani wrote the move comes ahead of Sky's expected report on Thursday "of its first fall in TV subscribers in 15 years during the last quarter." Both Berenberg and Credit Suisse analysts "have forecast a fall between 5,000 and 15,000 traditional TV customers respectively for Sky's first three months" of '14. BT also announced on Wednesday that "its set top box service BT TV has passed the one million milestone with the majority of those homes taking BT Sport" (MEDIA WEEK, 4/30). In London, Christopher Williams wrote BT’s aim in giving away BT Sport "is to drive the growth of its broadband subscriber base, which has been significantly eroded" by Sky in recent years. As well as winning back customers, it hopes "to win a larger share of new broadband business to help ensure a return" on £2.5B ($4.2B) investment in upgrading its network with fibre optics to provide faster Internet access (TELEGRAPH, 4/30).
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