Marc Watson, chief executive, TV, BT Retail told the Broadcasting Press Guild that the system – essential if it is to deliver its new suite of sports channels through its flagship set-top – was currently in trial. “It’s a problem that we can’t do that [run linear channels] on the YouView box from Day One, but if the customer comes to us we’ll give them a new box. It’s not ideal and hopefully we can address that, but there is a much bigger market out there.”
BT Sport will launch on August 1, with a three-channel suite offered free to customers of its broadband service, and with a £3 upgrade to an HD version.
There was no indication as to how many subscribers have so far called to have BT Sport switched on, however he reiterated the telco was in a long-term content play. “With all due respect to other companies, in particular Setanta and ESPN, we are not Setanta or ESPN. We don’t win or lose solely on how many customers sign up to our sports channel. We can win by retaining customers that otherwise might not have left BT and we can win by signing up customers that would not have otherwise chosen BT.”
Following its loss of Premier League packages, ESPN has withdrawn from the UK and European markets, while Setanta ultimately retracted to the Republic of Ireland, where it recently signed a distribution deal with BT.
Once the problem of channel delivery is solved, BT still has to cross the hurdle of Sky’s refusal to grant it access to the regulated Sky Sports 1 and 2. Earlier this month, the regulator Ofcom launched an investigation into the proposed wholesale supply of Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 to BT following a complaint from the telco.
Watson also confirmed that the BT Vision brand was being phased out. “We are in the process of rebranding, so we’re going to call our set-top box services BT TV, within that we’re going to have a vision box and a YouView box under a umberella brand.”
Watson explained that BT TV would also include content that is delivered to customers directly online.