Sky will broadcast its first free-to-air live EPL football match on the opening day of the new season "amid its escalating battle with BT Sport," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. As part of a revamped schedule, it will show its 5:30pm Premier League kick-off live on August 17 "as well as a Football League match live at lunchtime as part of a new show called FL72." The "bold move is an attempt to spike the guns of BT Sport," which has spent £738M ($1.1B) over three years securing the rights to 38 live matches per season. Sky "has paired Dave Jones with Jamie Redknapp for a new Saturday Night Football show." It will include Jeff Stelling's Soccer Saturday coverage, followed by its 5:30pm live EPL match "and by delayed coverage of one of the afternoon kick-offs and its interactive Football First service." It has also confirmed that Jamie Carragher, "signed as a pundit after he retired from playing, will join Gary Neville on its flagship Monday Night Football show." Sky Sports 1 will shift to Sky 2 for the day, "allowing Sky viewers who do not subscribe to the sports package to watch for nothing, and on Freeview and YouView services it will take over Pick TV for the day" (GUARDIAN, 6/27). REUTERS' Keith Weir wrote BT has spent around £1B ($1.5B) on its sports channels "and will offer these free to its broadband customers from August." BSkyB has responded with a mirror deal, "offering free broadband to Britons who subscribe to its sports channels." The "real winners in the BSkyB-BT battle" are the Premier League clubs who have enjoyed a 70% rise in the value of domestic TV rights to more than £1B per season (REUTERS, 6/27).
MAKING CHANGES: In London, Mark Sweney wrote thousands of BT Vision pay-TV customers face losing their Sky Sports channels from this weekend, as the telecom company "gears up to launch its own sports services ahead of the new Premier League football season." The move, part of the ongoing battle between BSkyB and BT prompted by the telecom company's aggressive move into TV sports rights, "provoked outrage from BT customers on its website community forums." BT is to make its two new BT Sport channels, "which will air programming including live Premier League football and Premiership rugby," available to BT Vision customers on digital terrestrial TV. In doing so, the channels it currently runs in the DTT slots -- Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 -- "will now only be available to BT Vision TV customers who live in an area that has its top-level Infinity broadband service, if they agree to sign up to it." A BT spokesperson said, "Launching a new sports channel and extra live TV channels has meant we have had to make some changes to the way we deliver different programming." BT has written to BT Vision customers who have Sky Sports and live in an area that is covered by its fast broadband service, "telling them that they have to subscribe to it or they will not be able to watch after this weekend." One disgruntled customer on a community forum on BT's website said, "BT are using this as a sneaky way to get people to upgrade to Infinity, I think it will fail" (GUARDIAN, 6/27).