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BT chief says Premier League rights deal is not ‘boom or bust’

BT chief executive Marc Watson said that the telecommunications company’s acquisition of live domestic English Premier League rights does not represent a “boom or bust” deal, according to the Guardian.

“There was a time when that was quite fair [to ask if BT Vision should be shut], not now,” Watson said.

Six years ago when BT Vision first launched the company predicted it would have three million pay-television subscribers by 2010, however, it has only managed to attract a fraction of that amount to date – just over 700,000 – and is significantly behind pay-television rivals Sky (more than 10 million) and Virgin Media (3.8 million).

“The business launched with great ambition but it turned out to be a much tougher marketplace, especially for content, than we thought it would be. Content is king and getting deals is difficult, that is indisputable.”

Watson who acknowledged that BT’s emergence in the tender had not been anticipated by many in the marketplace, added: “We had one advantage in being able to approach the auction undercover. Had our position been public… I’m not sure we would have got the outcome we did.”

BT purchased two of the seven available rights packages in the three-year cycle from 2013-14 to 2015-16, for £246 million (€308 million / $387 million), with UK pay-television broadcaster BSkyB acquiring the other five packages for £760 million per season.

Subsequent to the deal Sky has said it will raise its subscription prices to its Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 channels after a two-year price freeze.

Sky will also increase prices to access ESPN, the pay-television broadcaster that is carried by Sky, and its Sky Entertainment general programming package.

The Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 channels will cost an additional 50p per month and ESPN will cost £1 more per month. Sky Entertainment packages will cost an extra £1.50 per month.

“Having held our prices for 24 months, this September there will be a small price increase to some of our television packages,” a spokesman said. “We’re committed to investing for our customers, and over the last two years this has led to Sky investing nearly £400 million more in content per year, the launch of two new channels [including the new Sky F1 channel, which is dedicated to Formula One motor-racing] and award-winning products… A small increase in our prices means that we can continue to reinvest in the best content for our customers, alongside market-leading innovation to make their experience even better.”