Strong "take-up of broadband on the back of an unexpectedly aggressive drive into the pay-television market delivered the best revenue growth for five years at BT," according to Daniel Thomas of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Continued demand for the British telecom group’s "fledgling sports TV services boosted broadband and TV customer numbers and helped mitigate the long-term loss in its consumer line business." BT CEO Gavin Patterson said, "Our strategic investments are delivering." BT revealed the "highest quarterly increase in consumer revenue in a decade," up 6% in the third quarter, although operating costs for its retail arm rose 8% owing to the investment of £140M ($230M) in BT Sport. This led to an 8% "fall in retail earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation" and a 6% "drop in operating profit in the quarter" (FT, 1/31). The FT also wrote BT Group led London's FTSE 100 after the company reported its "strongest quarter of revenue growth." Revenues in the fourth quarter were up 2% to £4.6B, beating expectations of £4.5B, while reported profit before tax rose 6% to £617M. Earnings per share rose 11% to 6.3p. Shares in BT rose 3.1% to 382.2p, topping the FTSE 100 index, which inched 0.2% lower to 6,525.46 as banks weighed (FT, 1/31).
Channel 4 Racing's "struggle for popularity is revealed in figures now available," showing its '13 audience was down on the previous year for 73 of the 90 days on which it now broadcasts, according to Chris Cook of the London GUARDIAN. The news "illustrates the continuing difficulties faced by the programme since the production contract was handed to IMG at the start of last year," but Channel 4 "defended its record and claimed 42% of the British population had watched its output at some point." Racing insiders "have been disturbed to note that Channel 4 has generally been unable to sustain its own audience on racedays it has covered for years." On just 15 days was there a "clear improvement in average audience size" in '13 compared to '12 and in five of those cases, the '12 figure "had been depressed by competition with the Olympics." A "roundly critical view" of Channel 4 Racing's situation "was offered by Andrew Franklin, who, through Highflyer, produced the programme for 28 years until IMG won the contract at the end of 2011." He said the broadcaster had won exclusive rights to the sport by promising "to widen and grow the audience by way of innovation." And by ''audience'' they were "referring to the existing one, not some spurious five-year average to which they have subsequently alluded" (GUARDIAN, 1/31).
New Zealand Cricket "has pocketed the biggest payday in New Zealand sport with broadcast rights from this year's Indian tour understood to be worth in excess" of NZ$35M ($28M), according to Simon Plumb of FAIRFAX NZ NEWS. And in a new twist to the controversial "big three" takeover of the Int'l Cricket Council by India, England and Australia in Dubai last week, NZC CEO David White "emphatically rejected any suggestion the lucrative Indian tours will soon dry up," instead hinting a scheduled visit by them in '19 would be confirmed within a matter of weeks along with tours by "all the big countries." White confirmed that broadcast rights for the present Indian tour "were worth more than the then record" NZ$25M that NZC banked from the Indians' last visit in '09. He "would not provide a figure" but "knowledgeable sources" said that it is more than NZ$35M. The deal is part of an eight-year int'l broadcast contract between NZ Cricket and global sports marketing agency Pitch Int'l, struck in '12 and "set to cover two Indian tours" -- the current '14 visit and a return in '19 which was scheduled under the ICC's Future Tours Programme. But New Zealand's "apparent support of the Indian-led ICC takeover now looks to have been a bargaining chip designed to secure a 2019 touring commitment along with bi-lateral agreements with Australia and England to visit here" (FAIRFAX NZ NEWS, 2/2).
Australia's Channel Nine's male-dominated cricket team "will increase its female presence next summer, with the station bringing sports presenter Yvonne Sampson into the coverage." And, while Sampson will be hosting, rather than providing special comments during play, Nine Head of Sport Steve Crawley said that the cricket commentary team -- "long a male bastion -- would definitely have a woman providing ball-by-ball commentary in due course" (BRISBANE TIMES, 2/2). ... A "new app using crowdsourced insights into betting patterns has been launched for iPads." London-based technology firm BETFUZE "has developed the app as a tool for sports betting." Using the crowdsourced Twitter sentiment engine -- Sentimeter -- the app "helps better predict the outcome of sports bets by analysing the tweets of millions of sports fans in real-time" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 1/31). ... Spanish newspaper AS has "linked with the NBA to become the league's official Spanish web page." Fans will now "be able to access AS' official NBA page via NBA.es." The new website "will offer exclusive videos, recaps of all games, live stats, standings, news and more" (AS, 2/2).