Sky Sports Blocks BT By Staking Claim To EPL's Top Early-Season Games
Sky Sports "has blocked BT Sport" from showing any matches between last season’s Premier League top four during the opening round of televised fixtures, according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Details of live games for the first 13 weekends of the new campaign were revealed on Thursday morning, with Sky "having exercised its right of first refusal on 20 of the 38 rounds of fixtures to lock its newest and fiercest rival out of the division’s plumb ties" until Dec. 1. What is being called in some quarters a "strangle-at-birth policy" begins on the opening weekend, when Sky will show the Premier League debuts of Managers David Moyes, Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini at ManU, Chelsea and Man City, respectively. Also, Sky has scheduled ManU’s trip to Swansea at 5:30pm on Saturday, Aug. 17, meaning "it will be the first match the broadcaster has ever transmitted free to air" (TELEGRAPH, 7/11). In London, Ashling O'Connor reported the schedules "offer an insight into BT Sport's commercial strategy for challenging Sky," which has shown exclusive matches since the Premier League's creation in '92 and "still has the lion's share with 116 games this season." It is "a key moment for the newcomer, which surprised the media industry last year" by paying £738M for 38 games a season in "an effort to win new broadband customers." The matches "are free to its subscribers." BT Sport is seen by many as "the first serious challenge" to Sky's 20-year dominance given the financial resources of its parent company, the former state telecom monopoly (LONDON TIMES, 7/11).
BACK AND FORTH: Also in London, John Reynolds reported while Sky "has plucked the pick of the top Premier League games until December, BT could have a strong end to the season." BT "has only exercised" five of its 18 first picks, leaving with it with 13 first picks at the business end of the season. Sky "has exercised" eight of its 20 picks, leaving it with 12. However, the contrast in the early games "is marked," with BT's first game of the season Liverpool vs. Stoke, while Sky is airing Moyes' first game at ManU (GUARDIAN, 7/11). Sky Managing Dir Barney Francis said, "When you look at the opening fixtures in black and white, you can see that no other broadcaster comes close to the quality that we offer. Sky Sports will show every match between last season's top four, as well as every club at least twice by December" (REUTERS, 7/11). In London, Owen Gibson reported BT execs insisted they were "thrilled" by the games they have secured, which include the Merseyside derby. BT Sports Dir Simon Green said, "We have only used five of our top picks, which means that BT Sport will have another 13 throughout the remainder of the season, so our viewers have many more excellent Premier League games to come" (GUARDIAN, 7/11).
BAD NEWS FOR HODGSON: Also in London, Andy Hodgson reported England Manager Roy Hodgson’s "worst fears were confirmed" when it emerged that many of his stars will be in action on the Sunday before England’s "crunch World Cup qualifiers." The TV schedule revealed that Liverpool-ManU and Arsenal-Tottenham will be screened by Sky Sports on Sunday, Sept. 1 "just five days before they face Moldova and nine before the trip to Ukraine." The England boss "had hoped the glamour games would remain" on Saturday Aug. 31, "to give his men the maximum time to recover" (EVENING STANDARD, 7/11).