Media Playground: 'BT Vision had to secure Premier League rights'

20 Jun 2012  |  Liz Jaques 

BT Vision - like Sky - had to secure the rights to Premier League football for the 2013-2016 seasons, according to Nigel Walley, managing director of Decipher.

Speaking at MediaTel Group's Media Playground event last week, Walley said he expected to see a high bid from Sky but was surprised to see a winning bid from BT Vision. However, he explained that both companies are in the same position when it comes to getting paying subscribers to keep connecting to their services.

"65% of connected TVs are in Sky homes at the moment. Sky's two big draws are films and sports. Films are not very competitive, which means Netflix and LoveFiLM can both sit on connected TVs in Sky homes alongside Sky Movies. But one thing that will drive viewing and encourage consumers to go through a service like Sky - and BT Vision - is sport. It's the only way to hold up their subscription model," Walley said.

Walley also pointed out that BT Vision will need to launch a broadcast channel to show the matches. The question is, what other programming will feature on this channel to make it a viable option for consumers (and potentially other broadcasters) to sign up to it?

BT paid £738 million for the rights to broadcast 38 Premier League games for each of the seasons, while Sky will continue to show the majority of the matches (116 per season).

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML), BT will use the rights as a cornerstone for a new football channel and could acquire additional rights - potentially from ESPN, which will likely review its UK strategy - seeking distribution across digital terrestrial (Freeview), broadband / fibre (YouView, BT Vision, OTT), cable (Virgin Media) and satellite (Freesat and Sky) on a retail and wholesale basis.

BoAML's report adds: "While Sky believes it can offset the additional cost of the rights with other savings, it should focus the market's attention on the changing TV landscape and impact of increasing competition. As a platform operator/triple play provider BT poses a greater competitive threat than ESPN, and its football channel will add a further dimension to YouView/OTT. BT's pricing and bundling could also undermine Sky's value proposition."

BoAML claims that "the combination of fibre + BT Vision 2.0 (new) + YouView functionality + extra sports rights makes BT a very credible alternative for most families".

ITV's multi-platform group sales controller Stephen Poole commented that it would be interesting to see how the BT deal "might play out with its link to YouView". BoAML predicts that BT is likely to put the football on YouView as a standalone channel.

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