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BT beating Setanta and ESPN, but has ‘long way to go’

Simon Green

Simon Green

BT Sport has already gained more momentum than previous UK rivals to Sky Sports, though still has “a long way to go,” according to the head of BT Sport Simon Green.

Speaking at the Digital TV World Summit in London this morning, Green said that he accepts BT is still “building credibility” in the sports market, but said that it had made big strides in the 17 weeks that its sports channel line-up has been live.

Referring to BT Sports’ Premier League Football rights, Green said: “This last Sunday, one of our best games so far, was the Spurs vs. Manchester United game. That peaked at over 1.1 million viewers. That shows that so far in those 17 short weeks, we’ve already got a momentum which is a long way ahead of where Setanta was or where ESPN was.”

BT Sport’s existing rights includes rugby union, UFC fighting and from 2015/16 UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League football. Green said: “We’re pleased with this content. However, we do understand that there is a long way to go. We’re not at that point where this business case is absolutely certain.”

Stressing the need to build the BT Sport brand, Green said its on-air talent lends BT Sport a personality, and that its original sports-themed programming “improve the customers’ perception of our company” – despite not delivering the ratings of Premier League football.

“The future is by no means certain. We will go out and acquire more content. Recently we purchased the NBA. It’s a big, big value brand. It doesn’t necessarily deliver huge viewing numbers, but…it is a very valuable piece of content for us in terms of lifting our brand in the eyes of our customers,” said Green.

“For us, acquiring content is sometimes less about that short-term business plan. Three years for Champions League rights is not enough to get a return on the amount that BT is paying for it. This is a long-term strategy for BT. So it’s much more about satisfying the market at that time, getting the price right to win the rights.”