BT Sport aims to become ‘biggest sports broadcaster’ as it launches first 4K channel

Despite launching only two years ago, BT Sport has quickly become one of the main sports broadcasters in the UK. Now, with its exclusive Champions and Europa League broadcasting rights kicking off this summer, it is pushing a ‘major new chapter’ with the launch of its new ‘Ultra HD’ 4K channel.

L-R Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Lineker, Glenn Hoddle

After launching BT Sport in August 2013 as part of an effort to grow its shrinking revenues, BT’s Consumer business is in its fifth consecutive quarter of growth according to the broadcaster, and has been the fastest growing broadband service in the UK for the past two years.

“We’ve injected pace into our business,” said BT Consumer chief executive John Petter, speaking at the BT Sport Studio today (9 June). “We’re going from strength to strength.”

Now, the sports broadcaster is aiming to become the “biggest sports broadcaster in the UK” as it kicks off its third season, which will see it hold exclusive rights to UEFA Champions League and Europa League games with the launch of two new channels – BT Sport Europe and BT Sport Ultra HD.

Along with its existing channels, the Europe and Ultra HD channels, which go live on 2 August, will remain free for new and existing BT internet and TV customers.

Meanwhile, a new channel on Free View, BT Sport Showcase, will make a number of games available for free.

Dan Ramsay, acting marketing director, told Marketing Week: “We came in and shook up the market with free BT Sport two years ago and we’ve just extended that promise even further. We think that’s good for the consumer. Competition in the market can’t be anything but healthy.”

Ramsay said that the launch of Ultra HD shows BT Sport’s intention to “lead the UK broadcast market into 4K”.

“The fact that 60% to 70% of TVs sold in the UK are already 4K ready tells you something about what TV manufacturers think about the potential for that market,” he said.

“What it has lacked is a broadcaster to bring the content to those TVs.”

The FA Community Shield match on 2 August will be the UK’s first major sporting event to be broadcast in 4K.

“I prophesise that in four years time 4K will be a standard default norm to the extent that HD is now,” he added.

BT Sport launched a marketing campaign during the Champions League Final featuring some of its presenters, the line-up of which includes the likes of footballers Gary Lineker, Jake Humphrey, Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard.

The new channels will be promoted through a campaign that kicks off in July on TV, print and digital, with specific pub trade activity.

Ramsay added: “We’ll be spending a lot of money at the back end of the summer as the Premier League season kicks off.”

Connecting with fans through mobile

The broadcaster is also hoping to connect with consumers through its updated BT Sport app, which will feature live video streaming for all matches and instant goal alerts.

“We’ve seen app usage absolutely explode in two years,” Ramsay said. “That’s not just people out of home using it, it’s also using it as a companion in home.”

He said that BT Sport hopes fans will watch the game on TV while using the app at the same time, which will offer different camera angles and other match scores.

Pushing BT Sport in pubs and clubs

The exclusive Champions League and Europa rights will create “49 exclusive midweek occasions”, according to the brand, which it believes creates a great opportunity for pubs. It claims to have grown the pub market by 26% since its launch.

In order to further tap into this, BT Sport is launching a new Twitter handle, @BTSportBars, to engage with its pub audience and is creating a dedicated channel on Screech, which turns in-venue screens into ad services.

It is also launching a free online tool in July that will offer promotional assets for licensees, including competitions and the chance of visits from the broadcaster’s top talent.