UK telco BT has unveiled what it describes as “ambitious” plans to bring its BT Sport channels to millions of additional sports fans through a range of digital channels. These include social media, mobile and digital TV.
The plans will see the company stream its Freeview BT Sport Showcase channel on YouTube for both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League finals. By doing so, it will bring the matches within reach of millions of additional fans who do not yet subscribe to BT Sport.
BT suggests the matches will be popular, with Real Madrid taking on arch rivals Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final on 28 May. Ten days before this, Liverpool will play Sevilla in a highly-anticipated UEFA Europa League final.
BT Sport has proven popular with sports fans since its launch almost three years ago. Well over five million homes now subscribe to the channels and the service is available in over 27,000 commercial premises.
EE, the UK’s biggest 4G mobile network provider and part of BT Group, will also introduce a new offer to bring BT Sport to millions of EE customers, initially those on 4GEE pay monthly mobile plans, in time for the start of the next football season. Details and pricing will be revealed this summer.
The move follows TalkTalk’s announcement earlier this week that BT Sport will be available to TalkTalk TV homes from next season.
Keeping its promise to make televised sport more accessible to more people, BT Sport will screen both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League finals on its Freeview BT Sport Showcase channel. The matches will also be shown live on YouTube at youtube.com/btsport and bt.com.
Neither final has ever been made available for free on the video platform before. This innovative approach allows BT Sport to showcase its European coverage to a huge audience and maximise the numbers who can tune in.
Both finals will also be available for anyone to watch on BT TV, Virgin TV and Sky. BT Sport subscribers will be able to watch both finals live on BT Sport Europe, BT Sport UHD and the BT Sport App, which provides extra statistics, angles and exclusive content.
Mobile and Digital TV
EE will launch a new BT Sport offer to millions of its customers before the start of the new football season. The offer will initially be for customers on 4GEE pay monthly mobile plans and EE will announce details for the exciting new offer this summer.
The news follows the announcement this week that TalkTalk TV customers will be able to sign-up to BT Sport ahead of the new Premier League football season. TalkTalk TV homes will be able to subscribe to BT Sport channels on a rolling monthly contract directly from BT. Subscribers to BT Sport will also be able to watch fixtures on the go through the BT Sport App, and on all six red button channels from September.
The BT Sport channels are already taken by more than five million sports fans using BTTV, the BT Sport App, Virgin Media and satellite TV. Through these new social media, mobile and digital TV partnerships, BT Sport will provide sports fans with even more ways of accessing and enjoying exclusive, top sport.
“We’ve always said we wanted to give top quality sport back to the people and making the UEFA Champions League and Europa League finals free to everyone in the UK does this in a big way,” declared John Petter, chief executive of BT Consumer. “We’re also bringing BT Sport to a new generation of younger sports fans who view their entertainment online, through social media and on their mobile devices. We plan to make these finals the most social sports broadcast ever, with lots of exciting content in the build-up and on the night across YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vine.”
“Both BT and UEFA are delighted with what we have achieved in our first year as the broadcaster of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. The Manchester City semi-final second leg against Real Madrid had an audience peak of 1.7 million and we were privileged to show what most people regard as one of the truly outstanding European matches when Liverpool came back to beat Borussia Dortmund 4-3 in the Europa League quarter finals. That game had an audience high of 1.6 million, which is fantastic.”
“Now we want to make sure that millions more sports fans can join in from next season, accessing content digitally, whether that’s through social media, mobile devices or digital TV. BT Sport has pioneered the way when it comes to new technologies and digital platforms, whether that’s live Ultra HD, our immersive BT Sport App or red button functionality on YouView. Today’s announcements will take this further, and there’s plenty more that we’re looking at, whether that’s more programming in live Ultra HD, new App developments or our recent Virtual Reality trials at the FA Cup semi-finals and NBA.”
“At YouTube, we love football and we’re thrilled to give UK supporters more ways to watch BT Sport’s fantastic live coverage of these two massive games,” added Stephen Nuttall, YouTube’s Senior Director in EMEA. “Fans today expect quality content on every screen and this partnership enables just that. Football is YouTube’s biggest sport; we’re host to over 300 football clubs, 37 leagues and channels from BT Sport to UEFA.”
BT TV customers will continue to receive the BT Sport Pack, containing all the channels, for free if they are in contract. BT broadband customers will pay £6 a month for the BT Sport Pack, and can continue to watch via their Sky service. Customers who do not take BT broadband can watch on Sky for a channel-only price of £21.99 a month.
The news comes as BT Sport prepares for its best-ever season of sport. The channels will show its highest number of exclusively live Barclays Premier League matches – 42 – at a more popular timeslot with 5.30pm kick offs on Saturdays. Live Emirates FA Cup matches and once again, all 351 exclusively live UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches will only be available on BT Sport.
Christoph Pleitgen, senior vice president, sales and business development, EMEA and APAC, of Wochit, noted that BT Sport had paid a record £897 million for Champions League and Europa League TV rights but has received very little value for money to date. BT Sport’s average peak audience was just 200,000 for this year’s Champion’s League playoffs, compared to ITV’s 4.4 million viewers in 2015. “In light of this performance, today’s announcement of its plans to stream on YouTube two finals from European football’s premier club tournaments is not surprising in the least. While on demands services such as Netflix have come to dominate people’s TV viewing habits, sport is very different. Consumers almost exclusively watch sports live, with 95 per cent of total sports programme viewing happening in real time. With the average UK consumer now spending at least five hours a week watching TV, clips and films online, YouTube is a perfect outlet for BT Sport to attempt to maximise its audience, while also attracting the highest paying sponsors. With video content expected to make up a huge 69 per cent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2017, BT Sport is seeking to get ahead of the curve and go to where its audience now is.”
“The recent agreement between the NFL and Twitter is, to date, the landmark moment for traditional broadcasters and is an indication of how sports content will be viewed in future. This new approach, pioneered by many American sports recently, including baseball and basketball, sits outside the traditional UK model of exclusive television broadcasting. It will drive strong growth of viewership numbers and viewer engagement. BT Sport must have been paying very close attention to this development before making today’s significant decision.”