New sports chan­nels go live in three heavy­weight eco­nomic mar­kets

Sportcal - - FRONT PAGE - By Martin Ross

Al­though many coun­tries around the world con­tinue to face eco­nomic chal­lenges, the pay-tele­vi­sion sec­tor had held up ro­bustly, with mar­ket lead­ers main­tain­ing strong sub­scriber num­bers and in­vest­ing in new chan­nels as live sport main­tains its ap­peal for plat­form op­er­a­tors and view­ers across mul­ti­ple de­vices.

BT, the pow­er­ful UK telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany, launched new sports chan­nels this year af­ter sur­pris­ing many with its swoop for rights to English soc­cer’s Premier League, and is striv­ing to tackle Bri­tish Sky Broad­cast­ing’s longheld mar­ket dom­i­nance.

Across the At­lantic, Ru­pert Mur­doch’s 21st Cen­tury Fox has launched new Fox Sports chan­nels as it looks to es­tab­lish it­self as a com­peti­tor to Walt Dis­ney’s ESPN. Mean­while, Al Jazeera, the am­bi­tious Qatar-based broad­caster, has part­nered with the MP & Silva agency in south­east Asia to launch ‘beIN Sport’ chan­nels, ini­tially in In­done­sia, as it seeks to un­lock the po­ten­tial of a huge econ­omy and a pub­lic hun­gry for Euro­pean soc­cer con­tent.

BT SPORT

BT launched its new BT Sport chan­nels in the UK and Ire­land this sum­mer in what has been viewed as the strong­est chal­lenge so far to the mar­ket su­pe­ri­or­ity en­joyed by BSkyB.

Af­ter ITV Dig­i­tal, Se­tanta and ESPN all failed to mount a sus­tained chal­lenge to BSkyB, BT landed in the UK pay-tele­vi­sion mar­ket with its ex­ist­ing broad­band and tele­phone busi­nesses and sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in sports rights, prin­ci­pally for the Premier League and English rugby union’s Aviva Pre­mier­ship.

Armed with rights to 38 live Premier League matches per sea­son un­der a £246-mil­lion-per-year deal, BT laid down the gaunt­let to BSkyB by opt­ing to make its chan­nels avail­able ‘free’ of charge to ex­ist­ing broad­band sub­scribers (who pay from £15 a month re­gard­less of whether they take their tele­vi­sion ser­vices from other com­pa­nies).

The BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 2 chan­nels went live on Au­gust 1, along with an ESPN- branded chan­nel (af­ter BT bought ESPN’s UK and Ire­land tele­vi­sion busi­ness), and BT’s Premier League cov­er­age kicked off on Au­gust 17 with live cov­er­age of the open­ing match be­tween Liver­pool and Stoke City, at­tract­ing an av­er­age au­di­ence of 629,000 view­ers.

The ac­cess to the new sports chan­nels at no ex­tra cost to BT broad­band cus­tomers al­lowed BT Sport to an­nounce shortly af­ter its launch that it had breached the 1-mil­lion sub­scriber mark in the three months since it be­gan accepting sub­scrip­tions in May. On the eve of the Premier League sea­son, BT fi­nally ne­go­ti­ated a key car­riage deal with ca­ble op­er­a­tor Virgin Me­dia, en­abling BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN to be avail­able to a fur­ther 2 mil­lion cus­tomers as they were in­cluded in Virgin’s XL tele­vi­sion pack­age.

In ad­di­tion to the Premier League, the soc­cer con­tent on the three BT chan­nels in­cludes Eng­land’s FA Cup, the Scot­tish Pre­mier­ship, Europe’s Uefa Europa League, Ger­many’s Bun­desliga, Italy’s Serie A, France’s

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