MarketLine Blog

BT’s offering unlikely to dethrone Sky from the Sports TV market

BT launched two new channels aimed at carving a lucrative pound of flesh from the incumbent Sky for the sports television market, although it is unlikely to seize the throne under its current plans.

BT has invested £736m in 38 Premier League games and exclusive of coverage of the Aviva Premiership rugby season, with over 500,000 customers signed up. Other offerings include UFC, MotoGP, and Women’s Tennis. The company claims that its channels will be free to its broadband customers, although this is a half truth. Tablet, smartphone and computer users will be able to view the game for free through the BT Sports app, but customers will have to pay £5 a month for television viewing. Newer smart TVs have not been catered for, with an absence of an app for them too.

BT’s broadband prices range from the basic service for £10 to £26 a month for uncapped fibre optic Infinity coverage, plus the line rental fee. To access BT sports, a 12 month contract is required, with options varying for BT and Sky customers, and also depending on whether you fall under BT’s Infinity coverage.  For Virgin Media and Talk Talk customers, BT is not currently being offered, but if BT expands its exclusive rights this may change.

The current offering by BT is unlikely offer a full alternative to Sky’s reign, except for zealous rugby fans. BT’s Premier League coverage is predominantly the early kick off (12:45pm) on Saturdays, not the peak viewing time of weekend early evenings. Although it will offer some weekday evening matches, and over 69 rugby matches a season for four years.  Many of the customers are existing BT broadband customers.

It is unsure how BT’s offering will improve their broadband customer base either, as the company has received numerous complaints about installation or repair of BT lines and the Infinity speeds significantly dropping after a few weeks. Some may ponder if sports coverage was a worthy investment as a muddled complementary product, or whether they should have invested this in solving their customer service question.

As for Sky (who still possess coverage of 115 matches), they have responded by beginning to offering pay as you go access to the sports channels for the first time. They still possess some of the more popular fixtures and Champions League football is still dissected between them and ITV. This is most likely targeted at casual football fan intrigued by only a few big matches, but without sufficient interest to purchase the expensive Sky subscription. Their other offerings included Formula One and Cricket.

The massive acquisition by BT will further inflate an already avaricious appetite in English football for money. Sky’s current model shows signs of leniency to the customer through pay as you go offerings, but has seen off challenges from Setanta and ESPN. BT’s challenge, despite its intentions, is unlikely to thwart the commercial tyranny of Sky.

For more, read our company profiles on BT and Sky. You may also like our business case study Sponsorship and sport: A marriage of convenience.

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