BT today vowed to give Premier League football “back to the nation” as it outlined plans for its three new Sports channels.
The company will operate three channels offering sports fans 38 Barclays Premier League matches per season, exclusive Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) coverage and 800 hours of live tennis, including the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships.
At the official press launch for the channels, which will be broadcast from purpose built studios located on the Olympic park, BT announced customers would get free access to the channels when they subscribe to its broadband service.
To qualify, customers wanting to watch on their TV will need a BT Vision, YouView from BT set top box, or Sky box. Regardless of their equipment, customers will sign up directly through BT.
They will also need a copper (ADSL) BT broadband package or its super-fast fibre broadband product, BT Infinity. The company announced today new starter packages for each, priced £10 and £15 respectively.
Apps for smartphones and tablets will also be available allowing fans to watch their favourite sports on mobile devices.
At this morning’s launch BT said it aimed allow sports fans who had been “priced out of the market” to once again enjoy top flight games and sports.
Gavin Patterson, BT Retail chief executive said: “The launch of BT Sport is an important moment for the UK TV market.
“We will shake up the market which is great news for sports fans whether their passion is football, rugby or any of the other sports we will be showing. Fans will hopefully be cheering across the UK at the prospect of watching their favourite teams for free.
Customers receiving the channels via Infinity and a Vision or YouView box will be able to upgrade to High Definition versions of the channels for just £3 per month.
Sky customers who don’t take BT broadband will be able to subscribe to the channels via BT in high definition for £15 per month or in standard definition for £12.
The decision to retail directly to Sky users rather than allow Sky to retail the channels on its behalf means BT will retain contact with the customer, allowing it to offer them promotions and special offers.
Ian Livingston, BT chief executive said: “BT is the home of broadband so the fight for customers will now take place on our own turf. BT Sport will complement our world class fibre network.
“Customers don’t have to take BT Infinity to get BT Sport but we are encouraging them to move onto fibre broadband so they can enjoy the best of both worlds.”
An advert for the channels will launch on Thursday, encouraging sports fans to pre-register their interest in the channels.
The company also announced that Rio Ferdinand has signed a three-year deal to support the channels as an interviewer, programme-maker and football expert.
Other big names joining the channel include tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who will serve as the channels’ tennis expert and tournament anchor, former England No1 goalkeeper David James MBE and former Liverpool and England legend Michael Owen who will serve as co-commentator for football coverage.
Announcing the signings, Grant Best, senior executive channel producer, BT Sport said, “We are delighted to unveil today’s strong line-up of real sporting experts who will keep our viewers informed and seriously entertained.”