9th May 2013 - By Steve Clarke
BT Sport has finally unveiled details of what it claims is “the most important development in TV sports for 20 years.”
At a presentation held at the company’s state-of-the-art new studio facility at the Olympic Park, May 9, BT executives surprised analysts by announcing that the new sports channels would be available “free” as part of existing BT broadband packages.
BT customers who take the two new sports channels, plus a revamped ESPN, will not have to pay any extra on top of the £12 or £15 a month they already pay for their broadband service.
Non-BT customers will pay from £12 to £15 a month for the channels which will feature 38 exclusive Premier League matches a season.
No deal has yet been done with Virgin Media, but existing Sky subscribers who are BT broadband customers are able to have the new channels bundled with their broadband package without incurring extra charges.
The new channels will launch in early August, in time for the new season of Premier League football that kicks off August 17.
BT’s sports strategy involves building the number of subscribers to pay TV service, BT Vision, and retaining and attracting new broadband customers.
BT CEO Ian Livingston said: “UK sports fans have had a rough deal for too long.
"Many have been priced out of the market but we will change this by giving away BT Sport for free with our broadband.
“BT is the home of broadband so the fight for customers will now take place on our own turf."
BT announced a stellar line-up of presenters. These include Jake Humphrey and Clare Balding, plus several “brand ambassadors” including strikers Robin van Persie and Gareth Bale, of Manchester United and Tottenham respectively.
Rio Ferdinand is also on board as an interviewer and pundit.
The telephony giant claims it will offer a better deal to UK pubs and clubs than rival BSkyB.
It claims it will charge commercial operators “a fraction" of what Sky charges for its sports channels.
BT has paid £250 million a season for 38 Premier League matches.
Around 150 hacks, consultants and other assorted media types were ferried in coaches from the wasteland of Pudding Mill Lane DLR station to the BT Sport studios at Stratford.
At the presentation the ever-game Balding attempted to inject some of the feel-good factor of last summer’s Olympics into proceedings.
“It feels so good to be back in the Olympic Park,” she said.
As tempting as the BT offers looks, travelling out to Stratford on a wet and windy spring morning to hear the BT Sport presentation seemed a trial for some of the media crowd.
“It’s all been so time-consuming,” complained one consultant as she begged for directions to the Central Line. “We haven’t even got an umbrella.”