“It will be available to everyone who wants it,” was the message from BT Sports executives at today’s press conference in London, England.
More than 200 press representatives attended the event, testifying both to the importance of sport in British life and to the level of interest that there is in the BT Sports enterprise, central to which is its acquisition of Premiership Football rights.
Football occupies a prominent position in Britain’s national conscious, which explains much of the large press turnout. But there were reporters present from all walks of sporting life, even from the world of rock-climbing, which is apparently going to be making the occasional infrequent appearance in the late night schedules.
The UFC is just one of many blue-chip sports brands BT Sports has picked up. Others include the Aviva Rugby Premiership, the top French and Italian football leagues, the MotoGP rights, the FA Cup, Nascar, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball and the leading international tennis competitions.
BT Sport will operate three channels from three studios, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The studios are enormous - 80,000 square feet. They are the largest television studios in Europe. BT Sports is not going to be just a sports broadcaster, it is going to be a world of sport.
Listening to Grant Best, Executive Producer, and Simon Green, head of BT Sport, it is clear that the operation is extremely forward-focused. BT Sport executives believe that in the next few years, the increasing synergy between online and television will be completed. BT owns the fastest internet network in the UK - a super-fast fiber-optic network - and this is instrumental to plans.
Also instrumental is price. “Sports fans in the UK have had a rough deal on price for a number of years,” says Green. “We aim to change that.”
BT Sports is free for anyone who subscribes to BT Broadband at £10 or £15 per month. If the viewer doesn’t want BT Broadband, the channel can be obtained for £15 per month with a £3 supplment for HD. There will be three ways to access BT Sport programming - via BT Infinity, via a Skybox (whether or not you’re a Sky subscriber) and via BTSport.com
The fact that BT Sports is being made available for free to broadband subscribers is significant. It means that it will be the first time that Premiership Football games are made available to free to British viewers. That is going to mean significant uptake of BT Sport across the nation and it will benefit other sports on the platforms accordingly.
One such sport is MMA, represented by the UFC, the sport’s own premier league. And BT Sports intends to do much more for the UFC than its previous UK homes have. For the first time, there will be original UFC content made for the UK market and the UFC’s London office, headed by former Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook, is “very excited” about the opportunities for growth which this new deal represents.