BT Sport signs up 500,000 in battle with Sky

HALF a million homes are ready to receive BT’s new sports channels when they launch on 1 August, it was announced yesterday.

The company says more than 500,000 households have already signed up to access the new service, which represents a billion pound punt by the telecoms giant and puts it in direct competition with Rupert Murdoch’s Sky.

But most of the homes are existing BT Broadband customers who have been offered free access to the sports channels in return for signing a new contract for internet access.

The majority are also choosing to access BT Sport through their existing Sky TV set-top boxes. This is a blow for the company’s own television service, which added only 23,000 subscribers during the quarter, despite an expensive advertising campaign.

Paul Sidney, an analyst with Credit Suisse, said the offer of free BT Sport was at least curbing the loss of existing broadband subscribers to rivals.

“These are customers that are now locked in to staying with BT for the next 12 months for their broadband service and therefore lines that will not be lost to Sky,” he said.

BT said second quarter pre-tax profits were down to £449m on flat revenues of £4.45bn. It was the final results call for outgoing chief executive Lord Livingston, who recently became a life peer so he can join the government as trade minister in the autumn.