LONDON Oct 10 Pay TV company BSkyB
recognises it faces serious competition in the British sports
rights market from new entrant BT after dominating the
landscape for the past two decades.
BT, the former telecoms monopoly, has taken a leaf out of
BSkyB's book by winning a share of English Premier League soccer
rights from 2013, and then buying exclusive rights to English
Premiership rugby starting the same year.
BT is seeking to drive subscriptions to its BT Vision pay TV
offering through its enhanced sports portfolio just as BSkyB has
done to great effect. BT Vision has only around 700,000
customers, while BSkyB has more than 10 million customers.
"We take them very seriously," Sky Sports Managing Director
Barney Francis told the Leaders in Football conference at
Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium on Wednesday.
"We know the nature of the Premier League process means
there has to be a competitor and competition like that keeps us
on our toes," he added.
The Premier League divides its rights between two
broadcasters and Francis pointed out that BSkyB would be
broadcasting 116 live games per season when the new contract
takes effect next season. BT will show 38 matches.
The new deal is worth more than one billion pounds a season
to the 20 teams in the Premier League. BSkyB is paying 760
million pounds per year and BT will pay 246 million.
The new contract should not mean big price rises for BSkyB
customers, Francis added. BSkyB is paying 40 percent more for
its rights under the new contract.
"We're big enough to have financial flexibility to absorb
the bulk of these costs," he said.
Francis said the loss of Premiership rugby rights was a
result of inevitable belt tightening at the pay TV company after
the soccer deal and should not damage its business.
"We talked about tough choices and one of those was around
Premiership rugby. Premiership rugby wasn't particularly working
for us and we were the junior partner," he said.
Sports broadcaster ESPN, owned by Disney, has been the
biggest loser from BT's expansion into sports.
ESPN had a share of Premier League rights in Britain and was
also the main broadcaster of Premiership rugby.
In a sign of growing competition, BSkyB and BT are locked in
a dispute over rights to European club rugby from 2014.
BT says its deal includes the rights to matches played by
English Premiership clubs in Europe, while BSkyB has signed a
contract renewal with tournament organisers to show European