BT Vision taking its shot on goal

Squares off with BSkyB via delayed, inexpensive package

BT Vision began an assault on satcaster British Sky Broadcasting's soccer dominance Monday, announcing that viewers will be able to access near-live top league soccer for £4 ($8.10) a month, compared with the £34 ($69.30) monthly fee the satcaster charges for its own soccer channels.

Starting this season, British Telecom's broadband TV and on-demand platforms will offer viewers access to 242 Premier League matches per season that can be watched in full, but not until several hours after the games have commenced. It also is offering viewers access to additional fully live matches via an additional £12-a-month ($24.50) subscription to Setanta Sports, the sport channels that also are available on Sky.

BT is launching a multimillion-pound marketing campaign to support the launch, which kicks off this weekend, emphasizing the value its proposition offers relative to Sky.

"We're a sports-loving nation, and ordinary fans shouldn't be priced out of the action," BT Vision CEO Dan Marks said. "Millions of fans have resisted subscription services to date, and so we feel there's a substantial gap in the market. Highlights on (BBC1 soccer show) 'Match of the Day' are fine, but many fans want more, particularly those who follow teams that aren't often featured live. BT's unique mix of live and on demand sport means there is something for everyone, at prices people can afford and on the terms they choose."

But satcaster BSkyB still retains exclusive rights to the lion's share of live-action Premier League matches, winning four out of the six available live-rights packages offered in the last auction, with Setanta winning the remaining two.

"When it comes to sport on TV, nothing comes close to the excitement of watching it live. More than 6 million customers trust Sky Sports to bring them the best live action in football and a host of other sports," Sky said in a statement responding to the BT Vision announcement.

"Next season, Sky Sports will offer more live Premiership football than ever before and, just as importantly, we'll show the biggest head-head-head matches live," the statement continued. "What's more, Sky Sports will offer near-live coverage of the same 242 matches that BT will offer to its broadband subscribers, but without any extra costs."