New Ultra HD channel as BT sets its stall out for European football

DetailsJoseph O'Halloran | 10 June 2015

The concept of scheduled live free-to-air (FTA) Champions League football for English fans has been kicked into Row Z after BT Sport announced the pricing tariffs for the European football games it now has rights to.

The offer will be based around BT Sport Europe which will show all 351 matches from the UEFA Champions League and Europa League beginning August 2015; it will be free, but only for customers who subscribe to the core BT IPTV television service. Those customers will be able to receive the full BT Sport Pack for free – comprising BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, ESPN on BT Sport and BT Sport Europe.

BT will give its broadband customers the option of receiving BT Sport 1 for free for a third season. This channel will show 38 live Barclays Premier League matches as well as the Aviva Premiership and SPFL. BT Broadband customers who choose to watch on their Sky service, via the BT Sport App or on BT Mobile will be able to add the BT Sport Pack for a charge of £5 a month. The channel will also broadcast a new Goals show, where viewers can tune in on Champions League nights to access news and action across all eight games on a Champions League match day.

Most intriguingly, and despite the fact that even previous incumbent Sky had laboured in this area, BT will also launch in August a 4K/Ultra HD channel to showcase its premium product. BT Sport Ultra HD will require a new BT TV Ultra HD set-top box (STB) and will begin operation with the Community Shield game between Arsenal and Chelsea followed by other live events throughout the season, including selected games from the UEFA Champions League, Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and Aviva Premiership Rugby.

All of the UEFA Champions League games will be shown in HD, an optional extra costing £4 per month. BT added that it would make 'some' matches available for everyone to watch, whether a subscriber or not, via a new, FTA channel on digital TV. Called BT Sport Showcase, this channel will show a minimum of 12 UEFA Champions League matches and 14 UEFA Europa League matches and these will be available to anyone to watch for free. Each participating British team will be shown at least once.

"When we launched BT Sport we promised to make televised football far more accessible and affordable than it has been to date," commented John Petter, chief executive of BT Consumer. "We have opened the market to millions of new customers and we want to build on that as BT Sport becomes the undisputed home of European football ... This is a new chapter for European football on TV."

Commenting on the move, Ken Odeluga, a senior market analyst at City Index said: "This is BT's latest move in its current strategy to use premium sports programming as a tool to sell its fast broadband service and build a TV business. Furthermore it has come as a bit of a surprise. Given the £897 million price tag that BT bid to take the rights from under Sky and ITV noses, it was widely assumed that they would charge for it in an attempt to recoup the investment."