Advanced Television

Sky hits back in BT Sport ads spat

April 15, 2013

By Colin Mann

BSkyB has responded in withering terms to telco BT’s complaint that the satellite broadcaster has refused to screen a TV advertising campaign booked to promote its Premier League and other sports coverage as part of its BT Sport channels, scheduled for launch in July 2013. BT has complained to broadcast and communications regulator Ofcom about the alleged discrimination.

“We are happy to take Sky’s advertising but they seem afraid of taking ours,” noted John Petter, managing director of consumer for BT Retail, who likened the action to “a rottweiler running away from a newborn puppy”.

Graham McWilliam, BSkyB Group Director of Corporate Affairs, points out that in fact, Sky offered to carry BT Sport ads on all of its other channels , and suggests that it is “absolutely reasonable” for Sky Sports not to promote a direct rival, being normal practice across the media industry and, in spite of its comments about Sky, BT itself refuses to carry the broadcaster’s ads on its websites.

In a response to BT, copied to a number of newspapers who wrote about the issue, McWilliam wrote:

Dear Sir

BT complains that Sky has chosen not to carry advertising for its sports channels on Sky Sports.  For us, this is perfectly reasonable given the billions that we have invested to build our brand. As one media buyer has observed, it would be a “bit like Tesco being able to advertise inside Sainsbury’s”.

We must correct BT’s assertion that it is “happy to take Sky’s advertising but they seem afraid of taking ours”. For the record, BT advertises on Sky every month of the year and can promote its sports channels on all of our channels except Sky Sports. More pertinently, Sky is blacklisted by BT from advertising on the web portal aimed at its broadband customers. This has been the case since we entered the home communications marketplace in competition with BT several years ago.

Instead of complaining, we got on with building a successful broadband business. BT, in contrast, has taken the well-worn path to Ofcom’s door and compared itself to “a new born puppy”. Before honing its soundbites or filing yet another complaint, this £22 billion gorilla in puppy’s clothing would do well to look at its own double standards.

Graham McWilliam


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