BT Sport pats its own back on 1 million customer mark

BT Sport has launched a print advertising campaign congratulating itself on reaching the landmark 1 million subscribers mark – an early sign its major advertising spend is converting viewers to the service.

BT Sport Supporters Club
BT Sport self-congratulatory press ad on reaching 1 million customers.

The ads, which are running across the majority of today’s (13 August) national newspapers features brand ambassador and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie in a celebratory pose, with text stating: “He’s signed for BT Sport. Along with 1 million others”.

Earlier this year BT shocked the market by agreeing to pay £246m per season to show 38 live Premier League football matches, putting it head to head with Sky. In total BT has spent more than £1bn obtaining sports rights packages.

Since the start of 2013, both companies have embarked on multi-million pound advertising campaigns as they look to recruit broadband users and prevent their current user base from defecting to competitors. BT Sport is free with BT Broadband, or £12 a month without, a price that puts significant pressure on Sky, which offers its Sports channels from £22 extra per month on top of customers’ existing paid-for TV packages.

The 1 million figure – up from the 500,000 households it reported in July – is made up of existing and new broadband customers and Sky customers who have chosen to take on BT Sport as an extra. BT has not broken out how many new broadband additions it has acquired.

Sky has 10.4 million TV subscribers altogether, although this includes households on basic packages as well as those who pay extra for Sky Sports.

Viewing figures for BT Sport have got off to a slow start so far, although these are likely to increase once the Premiership season starts this Saturday (17 August). On its opening night (1 August) it reached a peak of 207,500 viewers, or a 1.2 per cent share of total viewing, according to BARB. The first advertisers on the channel included Adidas, Barclays, Microsoft and Carling. 

BT consumer managing director John Petter says BT Sport is helping the company retain and attract broadband customers.

He adds: “These are early days but we plan to make the most of this initial surge in demand as fans get excited about the football season ahead. Huge numbers of customers are signing up every day, which is testament to how fresh, vibrant and exciting the channels are. The market needed a new entrant to shake things up and that is precisely what we are doing.

“It is clear that many customers want BT Sport as well as Sky Sports. The good news for those customers is that they can do exactly that, and save a lot of money by taking our broadband and getting BT Sport for free.”

Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at CCS Insight, says the 1 million landmark is an “impressive” achievement from BT but it will need to improve its programming and rights position if it is to rival Sky over the long-term.

He adds: “With a broadband base of almost seven million, it’s a very encouraging start and one that will grab the attention of its rivals. BT looks set to hit the five million mark far more quickly than Sky did, and could feasibly double its current user base by Christmas. However, for long term success more work needs to be done to improve programming, and most importantly its relatively weak rights position, especially compared to Sky which still remains the clear leader.”

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