UPDATE 1-BT makes new sport channels free to existing customers
LONDON May 9 (Reuters) - Britain's BT is to offer its new channels carrying Premier League soccer for free to its existing broadband customers, it announced on Thursday, in an aggressive move designed to take on rival BSkyB in the pay-TV market.
The news sent shares in the rival satellite firm tumbling in mid-morning trading, down 5 percent in a sign of how nervous investors are that the telecom giant could pose a real threat to BSkyB, which has built its business around selling high quality sports and movie programming.
Analysts have said BT will use the appeal of its new sports programming to sign up more customers to its superfast broadband service, and in a sign of its intent, it said it would offer the channels to non-BT customers for 15 pounds ($23.35), while telling them that they could save money by switching to BT.
The group, which is spending 246 million pounds a year on the live UK rights to 38 English Premier League soccer matches, released its long-awaited pricing details at a high profile launch at the Olympic Park in London.
It said it would make its new channels free to any homes already taking BT Broadband. Those without BT, such as BSkyB customers, will be able to pay to access the content which includes Premier League soccer, rugby and other sports.
"UK Sports fans have had a rough deal for too long," Chief Executive Ian Livingston said. "Many have been priced out of the market but we will change this by giving away BT Sport for free with our broadband."
The new channels will be available via BT's own TV service called BT Vision, on Sky's digital satellite platform and also online.
"More than five million homes already take their broadband from BT and whilst the company will be rewarding those loyal customers with this great free service, it will also be encouraging customers of other ISPs to switch supplier," it said.