BT has stepped up efforts to use its forthcoming sports channels to win over customers from Virgin Media.
The channels will offer 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.
Earlier this month BT announced its broadband customers with BT Vision, Sky+ boxes, PCs tablets and YouView boxes would all receive the channels at no additional cost when they launch in August.
Sky TV households who don’t have BT broadband will be able to buy the channels directly from BT for £12pm. However, to date there’s been no announcement of BT and Virgin agreeing a carriage deal for the channels.
The new advert is likely to fuel speculation that Virgin will be unable to offer the channels to its users, at least initially.
Earlier this year BT bought ESPN’s basket of channels which Virgin currently offers free to customers taking its XL TV package, however these channels will cease broadcasting in their current form at the end of July. This means Virgin Media customers will lose access to free premier league football and other major sports.
Even if Virgin does secure the channels, BT’s £1bn plus investment means it’s unlikely to allow its rival to offer them to customers at no charge.
A new ad campaign running on the BT website appears to detect whether visitors are using a BT, Sky or Virgin Media broadband connection in order to target specific ads to them.
While Sky broadband customers are shown an advert highlighting that BT Sport will be available via their current Sky+ boxes, Virgin users are presented with an advert urging them to switch broadband providers.
Virgin is already unable to offer customers Sky Atlantic after failing to reach a deal with Sky and could soon find itself unable to offer customers access to major sporting events, thereby decreasing the attractiveness of its TV packages.