UK pay-television broadcaster BT Sport has defended its viewing figures for the Uefa Champions League European club football tournament this season.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper said that the BT Showcase channel had attracted an average peak audience of less than 200,000 during its coverage of the 2015-16 Champions League play-offs and group stages.
In comparison, UK commercial broadcaster ITV had an average peak of 4.4 million during the group stages and play-off matches during the 2014-15 season.
ITV and pay-television broadcaster Sky had rights to the tournament until the end of last season, with BT Sport then picking up the rights over three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, in a deal worth £897m (€1.1bn/$1.3bn).
Speaking to the newspaper, a BT Sport spokesperson said that it is “unfair” to compare this season’s numbers with previous figures from ITV.
“We’re pleased with the strong audiences we are seeing for Uefa Champions and Europa League football across our BT Sport channels, and we’ve seen a 46-per-cent increase year-on-year in the average BT Sport audience over the last three months we’ve reported,” the spokesperson said. “To compare the viewing numbers of BT Sport Showcase, which launched this season, with those of ITV, which has been running for decades, is unfair.”