BT’s cost per acquisition was significantly higher than the former Premier League rights holder, however, considering its ongoing multi-million pound marketing campaign and £1bn investment in sports rights as it looks to become a real contender to Sky Sports. ESPN had a peak audience of 713,000 to the first game of last season and 806,000 for Newcastle United’s 4-4 comeback against Arsenal the previous season, according to BARB figures.
More than 4 million households have access to BT Sport, which includes the 1 million subscribers the company announced had signed up earlier this month to view its channels across TV, mobile and desktop and the 3 million households on Virgin Media XL TV packages, which can view the channels for free on TV as part of their existing packages.
The BARB figures suggest fewer than a fifth of BT Sport’s subscribers tuned in to watch its first match live on TV at any point throughout the game, which averaged at 447,000 viewers across the entire 90 minutes, although the data does not include viewing data for online and mobile.
Unfortunately for BT, the BT Sport smartphone app hit technical issues during the first half of the game, prompting some subscribers to complain on Twitter, although BT sought to rectify the problem for the second 45 minutes.
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, says: “Our audience compares very well with Sky’s first game last season despite them having had years to establish an audience as opposed to weeks and a bigger subscriber base.
We are pleased by the BARB figures but they don’t tell the whole story. That’s because we have hundreds of thousands of customers who can watch via platforms that BARB doesn’t capture.”
Rival Sky gained a peak audience of 3.1 million viewers to its first game of the season, Swansea City’s clash with Manchester United, according to BARB figures. The broadcaster chose to counter the interest around the launch of BT Sport by allowing viewers access to its channel for free all day Saturday (17 August) on Freeview.
Meanwhile, today (19 August) BT and Sky rival TalkTalk has launched a multi-media advertising push to promote a half price offer for its TV, broadband and phone package, which includes a free YouView box.