Marc Watson, CEO of BT TV, has said the telco will “stick around for the long term” with its sports channels and declared that the company had “deep pockets” to enable it to compete for premium sports rights.
He said that BT wanted BT Sport to grow its whole consumer business in the UK, and was confident in its ability to compete with Sky. “We intend to stick around in this game for the long term. We are a big business; this is our home market. We are a British company. And we’re not that easy to chase out of town. We’ve got the quality of games. ”
“Although we will always be careful about what we spend, and we will look to spend wisely, we have deep pockets to really compete in the market and to co-exist with Sky for many years to come,” Watson told members of the Broadcasting Press Guild. He denied that the telco’s entry into premium sports market was a battle between it and Sky, suggesting “there’s room in the market for two. We can peacefully co-exist.”
He said that BT Sport’s marketing campaign gave the sense that “something big” was being born. “We’ve had a huge response to that so far across the country. We think we’ve got the right quality of sport, an incredible line-up of talent and we’re giving it away for free.”
He refuted suggestions that this could be a “ruinous” strategy and a folly. “It’s part of a long-term strategy and we’ve been thinking about it for a long time. We want and it suits us for our channels to be watched and loved by millions of people across the UK and Ireland.”
He said that where BT saw the real opportunity in the market was in bringing its big investments in products together, in particular TV and broadband under its BT Infinity brand. He said the £1 billion that BT had invested in rights was dwarfed by the £2.5 billion to £3 billion it had invested in rolling out superfast broadband across the UK. “Together, they make a really compelling, powerful double act.”
He said that BT was different from Setanta and ESPN (who both held Premier League rights at one stage). “We won’t win or lose solely by how many customers we sign up for our sports channels.” BT saw a great opportunity in triple play bundles, with the telco now able to take advantage of such possibilities having previously been unable to do so because of regulation.
He admitted that there had been difficulties in migrating customers to newer BT TV platforms and noted that Sky wouldn’t allow it to put Sky Sports 1 and 2 onto that box (see separate story). “We’ve been trying to resolve that commercially with them for months, and with the season fast approaching, we’ve put that into Ofcom and asked them to have a look at that. We think there’s a very good case and it’s a question then of how quickly Ofcom will look at it and fix it in time for the new season.”