MILLIONS of broadband subscribers are set to drop their current provider to switch to BT, having been tempted by the carrot of free Premier League football on TV.
Initial figures from Usurv, an internet pollster, said that eight per cent of Sky’s TV customers – around 832,00 households – plan to switch from their current provider to BT. The research also said that six per cent of TalkTalk and Virgin Media broadband customers – roughly 500,000 people – intend to switch in order to take advantage of the sports channels BT is offering for free to its own internet subscribers.
Although the figures are unlikely to give a completely accurate reflection of the market, and there is some overlap between the two sets of customers, they still suggest that more than 1m people already intend to switch from rival operators. BT announced a week ago that it would hand those who sign up to its broadband packages free-of-charge access to its three new sports channels, which include the rights to 38 Premier League games a season, as well as Premiership rugby and foreign football leagues.
The move is the biggest shake up of sports TV in more than 20 years, and is an aggressive bid from BT to shore up its broadband base, which has been threatened by Sky’s entry into the market.
More worryingly for Sky, Usurv’s research said that six per cent of Sky TV customers are considering cancelling their TV contract, the company’s most lucrative business.
Analysts appeared to disagree with the suggestion that Sky’s TV base will suffer, however. Claire Enders of media researchers Enders Analysis said: “The BT Sport product is not strong enough to cause any but the slightest erosion of Sky Sports residential customers.”