BT Signs Up More Than 500,000 To New TV Sports Channels
More than 500,000 U.K. households have signed up for the new TV sports channels offered by BT, the telecom group that has "spent heavily on the rights to show top football matches in a bid to take on British Sky Broadcasting," according to Adam Jones of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Announcing first-quarter profits "that beat expectations," BT said it was “very pleased” with the number of customers who had signed up for the channels, which are "free to those who already pay for its broadband internet services." BT CEO Ian Livingston said it was still “early days” for BT Sport, which launches on Aug. 1. Livingston: "It’s a very encouraging start" (FT, 7/25).
NOT AS IT SEEMS: In London, Mark Sweney reported the company admitted this is "mostly" existing customers who have taken the channels for free as part of renewing their BT broadband contracts. The majority "are also taking BT Sport via satellite, so do not count as standalone subscribers to the company's pay-TV service." The company "will be concerned" that the rate of growth of new pay-TV subscribers is down by almost 43% -- "it signed up 40,000 subscribers in the previous quarter" -- despite running "a star-studded multimillion-pound ad campaign to entice new customers to its TV service" (GUARDIAN, 7/25). Also in London, Chris Johnston reported the launch of BT Sport next week "is intended to boost customer loyalty and the amount they will spend, while reducing the number of subscribers who opt to take broadband and telephony from Sky." Market research group CCS Insight's Paolo Pescatore said, "BT has made a great start with BT Sport and BSkyB should take note. Half a million customers in the last couple of months is an impressive feat -- more so given that the service is not commercially available yet. This take-up underlines the key battle for broadband customers in the U.K. What BT must now focus on is luring users from its rivals" (LONDON TIMES, 7/25).