The ambitious launch of BT Sport in the UK coming up this summer has taken the sports broadcasting industry in the region by storm so far, and now will be even more warmly received by those already affiliated to the telecommunications giant, after it was this week revealed that the 5 million existing BT Broadband subscribers (and people who sign up to the service thereafter) will be able to access the channels for free.
Looking to put an topple the domination that Sky Sports has enjoyed for many years in subscription sports broadcasting (something which previous challengers such as Setanta Sports and ESPN UK failed to accomplish in attempts), BT yesterday (9 May) unveiled their upcoming channel range with BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, and ESPN UK (as part of a takeover deal of the existing broadcaster) all joined by HD simulcasts for a total of 6 channels (effectively 3) that will launch in August.
Available for subscription at around £15 per month on Sky (with £12 for the reduced non-HD version), the free channel deal will be made available on the platforms of Sky, YouView, and BT Vision, and an official app, all of which will broadcast BT Sport at no added cost provided the customer is registered to BT Broadband.
Content-wise, these customers will be able to access a quickly-acquired spate of content (partially attained through the ESPN purchase) including football (featuring extensive club coverage from the top-tier leagues of England, France, Italy, Brazil, USA, Scotland, Germany, and Australia, the Scottish Second Division, the FA Women’s Super League, and cup competitions the FA Cup and UEFA Europa League, amongst others), along with 69 Aviva Premiership rugby games per season, and exclusive rights to MotoGP, UFC, and WTA women’s tennis, along with the current ESPN range of American sports rights.
BT chief executive Ian Livingston said of the latest news surrounding the broadband deal: “UK sports fans have had a rough deal for too long. Many have been priced out of the market but we will change this by giving away BT Sport for free with our broadband. Sports fans are the winners today.”
Also this week, a number of the people signed to the punditry team of BT were revealed, with England international players Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, David James and Owen Hargreaves joining the channel’s football coverage alongside anchor Jake Humphrey, while Claire Balding and former England rugby player Lawrence Dallaglio are also headlining the BT Sport presenting team. Amongst other content, former Soccer AM host Tim Lovejoy has been recruited for a similar weekend football show on the new channel, with Balding fronting a weekly general sports talk show, and Des Kelly signing to front magazine programme Life’s A Pitch.
With plenty planned to be included in the channel ready for it’s release, will several million subscribers before the channel has started airing stand BT Sport in good stead for their market challenge?