BT offers UEFA Champions League and Europa League free to BT TV customers
James R | On 09, Jun 2015
BT will offer UEFA Champions League and Europa League football free to all BT TV customers from next season.
The announcement follows BT’s acquisition of the UK rights to UEFA Champions League football, which were previously shared between Sky and ITV. The deal, which will run for three seasons from the start of the 2015/2016 competition, marks the first time a single UK broadcaster has the rights to the matches from both tournaments.
It also marks another step in BT’s journey to become one of the country’s leading sports broadcasters. In 2012, BT paid £738 million for the rights to 38 Premier League games, which it then offered to broadband customers for free.
Now, its £900m deal with UEFA will give its exclusive rights to two European tournaments, breaking down to £299m a season – a significant hike from the £400m deal between Sky and ITV.
Bad news for Sky?
Sky has already hit back at BT, claiming that it will not miss the tournament after what it says was its worst season ever: Sky’s coverage of the final on Saturday night attracted an audience of fewer than 500,000 viewers, almost a third of the figures for last year’s final.
“Over the last five seasons we have seen Champions League audiences fall 36 per cent,” said Sky in a blog post. “Overall, Champions League accounts for just 2.5 per cent of Sky Sports viewing, while the Premier League is seven times bigger.”
Compared to the highly popular Premier League, the Champions League is certainly an unpredictable bag: in 2008, 14.6 million people tuned in to watch Man U beat Chelsea, as audience levels tend to be dictacted by how well English teams do in the tournament.
Free matches for everyone
Fans who cannot afford Sky, though, may still be disappointed by the deal, as it means that European club football will no longer be live on Freeview.
But BT has promised to make matches available for non-customers too, via a new, free-to-air channel on digital TV. Called BT Sport Showcase, this channel will show a minimum of 12 UEFA Champions League matches and 14 UEFA Europa League matches per season, which will be available to anyone to watch for free. Each participating British team will be shown at least once.
“When we launched BT Sport we promised to make televised football far more accessible and affordable than it has been to date. We have opened the market to millions of new customers and we want to build on that as BT Sport becomes the undisputed home of European football,” comments John Petter, chief executive of BT Consumer.
Kicking off contracts
BT, of course, will hope that this taster will woo people onto to its pay-TV service, where all 351 matches will be free to subscribers. These customers will be able to receive the full BT Sport Pack for free – comprising BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, ESPN on BT Sport and the new BT Sport Europe channel, which launches on August 1st.
The free package comes at a cost, though: BT TV starts from £7.50 a month, plus an additional £16.99 monthly line rental for BT Broadband: a total of £24.49 per month, plus a one-off £49 activation fee.
BT Broadband customers who choose to watch on their Sky service, through the BT Sport App or on BT Mobile, will be able to add the BT Sport Pack for £5 a month. The £5 monthly tariff will not be available to non-BT Broadband customers.
BT will also continue to give its broadband customers the option of receiving BT Sport 1 for free. This channel will show all 38 of its live Barclays Premier League matches, as well as the Aviva Premiership and SPFL.
The cost may be a penalty for your wallet, but the broadcaster has certainly assembled an impressive team sheet for its Sky-competing service: Gary Lineker, Jake Humphrey and Rio Ferdinand will front the live UEFA Champions League coverage on BT Sport Europe. They will join the existing BT Sport team, which includes Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and Owen Hargreaves, as well as new signings Steven Gerrard, Harry Redknapp, Glenn Hoddle and Howard Webb.
The channel will also broadcast a new “Goals” show, presented by James Richardson, where viewers can tune in on Champions League nights to enjoy all of the news and action across all eight games as it happens.
BT will introduce a dedicated sports red button service to boot, which will allow BT TV viewers to switch between matches and track the action. A new ‘Goal Alert’ function will let the viewer know when a goal is scored in any of the games and check all the latest stats.
As well as through their TV, customers will be able to watch games live online and through the BT Sport app. The app will include instant access to all of the goals and events from every game, at any time, through a new game timeline feature. This will allow key events to be viewed from multiple camera angles along with in-game analysis.
Alongside the launch of BT Sport Europe, BT will also introduce the first Ultra HD (4K) channel in Europe, BT Sport Ultra HD, and will also introduce a new BT TV Ultra HD set top box. The Community Shield will be the first match broadcast, with other live events shown throughout the season, including selected games from the UEFA Champions League, Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and Aviva Premiership Rugby.