We have written previously about the growing broadband battle in the UK between Sky and BT. Broadband is a high margin product for both companies, and one which both are keen to push heavily over the next 24 months. Sky already has its premium TV subscription package in over 10 million UK homes; leaving little room to grow considering its average price exceeds 60 GBP per month. Recently, the broadband battle heated up when BT secured 38 live premier league games, and quickly announced that these games would be free to their broadband customers.
Sky has now hit back, by announcing that the first game of the premier league season will be broadcast free of charge. Sky Sports 1, which is usually only available to Sky customers who subscribe to the Sky Sports package, will be made available to all on Saturday August 17th. This ‘free for a day’ Sky promotion has drawn an instant riposte from BT
BT were quick to remind readers that their BT Sports channels (BT Sports 1 and BT Sports 2) will be available free everyday for customers of their BT infinity broadband. A spokesman said “BT Sport is free everyday of the season”, in a thinly veiled dig at their new rival broadcasters.
The spokesman went as far as to describe Sky TVs response as a “stunt”, although he did acknowledge that BT are “pleased to see that our arrival has prompted Sky to try and raise their game”.
It’s clear that BT feel that they have the upper hand on Sky TV next season. The football doesn’t just boil down to volume of games – Sky are the clear winners there – but the quality of those games. BT won nearly half of the ‘top pick’ games, meaning that whilst BT customers will see a lower volume of games overall, they will see an almost equal number of games featuring the top teams, including Champions Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
However, the broadband and premier league battle is not as straightforward as ‘Free verses paid’. For all of BT’s marketing – and there has been plenty of that – they are not making the football universally free for their customers. The offer is limited to BT Infinity customers, which means that you need to subscribe to BTs costly top-tier internet package before you get the football for free.
Some reports indicate that BT customers may get more limited access to Sky Sports 1 and 2 as a result of the introduction of BT Sports 1 and 2. This may mean that BT customers are relegated to streaming certain games through the BT service (NB: this is official streaming rather than the illegal streaming which the ISPs are now blocking).
The BT channels, fronted by some serious broadcasters and sports personalities, will go live on August 1st. It may be that we have to wait until then to see how the ground really lies.