BT Sport to be “more relaxed” than Sky

Ahead of the launch of the new channel this season, BT is hoping to distinguish itself from Sky with a more relaxed and less statistics-based character to its broadcasting

BT Sport, the new sports package from the telecoms giant, will be “more relaxed” than Sky’s current offerings and probably involve less statistical analysis, a senior company source has revealed.

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The source told RadioTimes.com that the channel would be “less formal” than the Sky Sports’ coverage – which features large amounts of statistical data and onscreen technical gizmos – and would be aiming to appeal to sports fans of all kinds and tastes.

“We want people who love sport to enjoy watching it – it’s quite simple,” said the source.

BT has already revealed that broadcaster Jake Humphrey will be the main face of BT Sport while the football punditry will be provided by a number of veteran or former stars of the game. Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand is one of the new names, as is his former club colleague Owen Hargreaves, along with Liverpool FC alumnus Steve McManaman and ex-England goalkeeper David James.

BT Sport’s current deal will see it feature 38 live Premier League games each year for the next three seasons, including 18 ‘first pick’ matches. There will also be live games from other leagues around the world – including Germany, France, Italy and Brazil – as well as FA Cup ties, the UEFA Europa League and Scottish Premier League.

The service will be available for free to all BT Broadband subscribers.

Sky has 116 games a season over the same period but is said to be nervous about the threat of BT which has promised to “give football back to the nation”.

Speaking after yesterday’s Broadcasting Press Guild lunch with journalists at the top of the BT Tower, BT Vision boss Marc Watson said there was room for both Sky and BT and denied the suggestion that BT merely wanted to boost its broadband subscribers. He also said that his company was in the premium sports rights arena “for the long haul”.

Watson told RadioTimes.com that his company was not prepared to make the mistakes of other organisations that have sought to challenge Sky’s dominance of the TV marketplace. “We have deep pockets,” he said of his company at the BPG lunch at the top of the BT tower today, adding: “We are not dependent on achieving a certain number of subscribers to stay in business.”

The bulk of BT’s football matches will be broadcast on Saturday lunchtimes – and BT is offering pubs what it claims to be a 20% discount on Sky tariffs for showing live premiership football.

Watson said he was keen to look at other sports but that golf and cricket rights were tied up “for a while”, adding that the company needed to improve its customer care performance and acknowledge the frustrations of people who have to use BT’s foreign-based call centres, many of which are located in India.

But he also said that costs needed to be kept down and that a number of other companies used similar centres based abroad.

However, Watson hinted that BT’s much-hyped offer of “free” Premier League football for broadband customers could have a shelf life.

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“This is not a short-term offer, but we only do offers at 12 months at a time, we don’t generally do offers longer than that,” he said. “We’ll review it as we review all our products and see how it is doing over the course of the next year and decide what we do going forward. It is not a gimmick, it is intended to be a long-term offer, but we’ll see.”