LONDON — British Telecom and Setanta are hoping to lure subscribers away from BSkyB by offering free English Premier League soccer.
The matches, along with England international games, will be available on Setanta Sports 1 — free to BT Vision customers who subscribe to packages costing upwards of £14 ($28) a month in an attempt to add some much-needed new customers.
Dan Marks, BT Vision CEO, said: “Our compelling offer of the premium sports channel Setanta Sports 1 free with our viewing packages proves you don’t have to pay sky-high prices to watch top-flight football and our packages offer so much more value than comparable TV packages on both Sky and Virgin.”
The upstart hybrid broadband TV offering bowed to much hype more than 18 months ago, but so far BT Vision has failed to make any real dent in either BSkyB’s or Virgin Media’s subscriber base.
Some commentators have suggested that potential subscribers are deterred by what they see as the complexity of the BT offering.
But the prospect of watching 46 live Premier League games for around a third of what BSkyB’s sports channels cost could prove a welcome lift for the challenger brand — especially when BSkyB recently told customers it is increasing prices as a result of economic pressures.
In Blighty, as in much of the rest of the world, top flight soccer remains the key driver of payboxes like BSkyB.
Between them BSkyB and Setanta have exclusive rights to live English Premier League soccer so a tie-up between BT Vision and Setanta represents a significant move.
BT Vision offers subscribers a mixture of movies, entertainment, music and sports on demand and via the U.K. digital terrestrial service, Freeview.
Since bowing in December 2006 the service has attracted 250,000 customers and aims to have between two and three million signed up by 2012.
In a separate move, the telco announced plans for an ambitious roll out of high-speed broadband.
This would allow around 40% of the U.K. to have access to a fiber-based service provided regulator Ofcom creates the right conditions for BT to make enough coin from the plan.