BT has signed up as few as 60,000 to its sports package, say insiders

Steve Dinneen
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BT’S offering of Sky Sports 1 and 2 was hailed as a lynch-pin of the firm’s transformation into a big player in the pay-TV market.

But industry insiders estimate that it has only signed up around 60,000 sports customers, despite spending tens of millions promoting the service.

BT Vision has struggled to compete with the might of Sky, with just 481,000 subscribers compared to Sky’s 9.8m.

BT hopes its sports package, which allows customers to watch Premier League games for as little as £6.99 a month, will help it redress the balance.

Sky was forced to wholesale its sports channels to rivals at a regulated price by industry watchdog Ofcom. The price is fixed to the level Sky charges its own customers.

But in an audacious move, Sky wrongfooted BT on the eve of its sports launch by raising its consumer prices, meaning the former state telecoms provider will make a loss on every customer who signs up to the service.

However, analyst Ian Watt from Enders Analysis says the figures are not a disaster for BT. He told City A.M.: “We never expected them to sign up droves of new customers.

“The package has only been available for a month so this is perfectly respectable.

“This is first and foremost a defensive move. It is shoring up its position, making sure it doesn’t keep losing customers to Sky. I don’t think it realistically expected to take many of Sky’s existing subscribers.

“BT still isn’t in a position to compete with Sky. HD is the main reason at the moment, a massive selling point for Sky. And 3D looks like it will become much more mainstream soon.”