BT’s investment in exclusive European football rights has been rewarded by increased viewing figures for its TV and sport channels.
Reporting its Q4 and FY2016 numbers, the telco revealed that BT Consumer revenue was up 7 per cent reflecting a 20 per cent growth in broadband and TV revenue, helped by its investments in BT Sport Europe and BT Mobile. BT Consumer now has 1.5 million TV customers, an increase of 28 per cent since the start of the year, adding 66,000 TV customers in the quarter.
Exclusive coverage of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League has driven strong viewing figures – average daily audience figures increased 45 per cent year on year, from the start of the football season in August to the end of March.
The strongest performing match for the season to date is Arsenal v Barcelona from the last 16 stage, it had an average in-match audience of 1.47 million and peaked at 1.66 million, a higher in-match audience than any of Sky’s last 16 fixtures last season. Across all live coverage that evening (30th Sep) there was a concurrent peak audience of 1.80 million watching Arsenal v Barcelona / Juventus v Bayern Munich – the highest for the season to date. The UEFA Europa League last 16 first leg clash between Liverpool and Manchester United generated a peak of more than two million viewers for the first time.
For the season to date (first 33 matches) BT’s Premier League in match audiences are +3 per cent YoY, which it says is strong in the context of Sky’s performance, -4 per cent YoY across its first 86 matches. The highest audience for the season to date is the Premier League tie between Manchester United and Chelsea, which achieved an in-match audience of 1.54 million and peaked at 1.74 million.
Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive, commenting on the results, said it had been “a landmark year” for BT. “We’ve completed our acquisition of EE, the UK’s best 4G mobile network provider, we’ve passed more than 25m premises with fibre and we’ve also delivered a strong financial performance. We’ve met our outlook with our main revenue measure up 2.0 per cent, the best performance for more than seven years. Our profit before tax was up a healthy 9 per cent.”
“Customers want to be online wherever they are and we will be there for them. Our multi-billion pound investment plans will see both fibre and 4G reach 95 per cent of the UK and we won’t stop there. The UK is a digital leader and our investment in ultrafast broadband will help it stay ahead.”
“The integration of EE is going well and we now see the opportunity to deliver more synergies than we originally expected, and at a lower cost. And we’re reorganising our business to better serve customers both in the UK and internationally.”
“We’ve invested across the business and are seeing good results. Our BT Sport audiences are up 45 per cent this year following the launch of UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League content. BT Mobile has done well since its launch, building a customer base of over 400,000. And in the business market, we’ve seen very strong demand for our cyber security expertise with our security business growing by 24 per cent.”
“Customers are benefiting from our investments but we plan to do more when it comes to service, to meet customers’ rising expectations. That’s why Openreach is tackling missed appointments, why BT Consumer will be upgrading service levels to next day repair and why we’ve hired 900 engineers. We’ve also recruited more than 900 extra contact centre staff. This will enable us to return EE and BT Consumer contact centre work to the UK.”
“Our strong overall performance for the year is reflected in our full year dividend, which is up 13 per cent. Our results and the investments we’re making position us well to continue to grow in the coming years. In light of our confidence we are setting out financial and dividend guidance for the next two years.”
Separately BT announced a further wave of investment to help the UK remain the leading digital nation in the G20 . Its Openreach and EE businesses will between them spend around £ 6 billion capital expenditure over the next three years in the first phase of a plan to extend superfast broadband and 4G coverage beyond 95 per cent of the country by 2020.
Ultrafast broadband will be deployed to a minimum of ten million homes and businesses in the same period, subject to regulatory support, with an ambition to reach twelve million. There will be an increased focus on Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology within this plan with the aim being to reach two million premises with the technology, mainly in new housing developments, high streets and business parks.
Customer service will be another area of focus with the company revealing a series of new initiatives to better meet the evolving needs of its customers.
Patterson said: “The UK is a digital leader today and it is vital that it remains one in the future. That is why we are announcing a further six billion pounds of investment in our UK networks, subject to regulatory certainty.”
“Networks require money and a lot of it. Virgin and BT have both pledged to invest and we will now see if others follow our lead. Infrastructure competition is good for the UK and so is the current Openreach model whereby others can piggyback on our investment should they want to.”
“G.fast is an important technology that will enable us to deploy ultrafast broadband at pace and to as many homes as possible. Customers want their broadband to be affordable as well as fast and we will be able to do that using G.fast. FTTP will also play a bigger role going forward and I believe it is particularly well suited to those businesses who may need speeds of up to 1Gbps. My ambition is to roll it out to two million premises and our trials give me confidence we will.”
“Customer expectations are increasing all the time and we need to work hard to meet those new demands. That is why contact centre work is being returned to the UK and why Openreach is aiming to halve the number of missed appointments within a year. Customers want higher standards of service and we are determined to provide them with just that.”
BT’s next wave of investment will help Openreach take UK superfast broadband coverage beyond 95 per cent and the business also stands ready to address slow speeds in the final few per cent of the country should there be regulatory support for its plans. Long Reach VDSL has been identified as a potential solution and Openreach is set to run technical trials in the coming months.
EE meanwhile has said that it will extend its geographic 4G footprint from around 60 per cent today to 95 per cent by 2020. These parallel plans will ensure the UK is one of the best served countries in the world when it comes to superfast fixed and mobile services.
Ultrafast broadband will be a major area of focus for Openreach which has an ambition to reach twelve million premises with ultrafast services by 2020, two million more than previously announced. The business has the largest FTTP network in the UK and it has been conducting further trials of this technology to prove it can reduce the cost of deployment, improve the customer experience and make it quicker to install. The trials are going well and the business believes it may be able to pass two million premises with this technology by 2020 helping to take overall ultrafast availability to twelve million.
Whilst some consumers will receive their ultrafast broadband via FTTP, most will receive it via G.fast, a technology which transforms the speeds customers can receive over a mix of fibre and copper. Customers taking part in the trials are currently receiving speeds of up to 300Mbps and these will reach up to 500Mbps in the next few years as the technology is deployed. Laboratory tests of XG-FAST, a future variant, have also shown that speeds of more than 5Gbps are possible over short copper lines demonstrating that copper has a role to play for many years yet.