BT Sport increases average viewing by 8 per cent for second quarter
BT Sport, the pay-television sports service of the UK’s telecoms giant, increased its average viewing figures by 8 per cent in the second quarter to 30 September 2017, compared with the same quarter last year.
BT said that the figures were “driven by strong performance in both Premier League (up 2%) and UEFA Champions League (up 16%), with six British teams having qualified for the group stage for the first time since the 2007/08 season.”
BT Sport shares live broadcasting rights to the Premier League with pay-TV rival Sky in three-year deals worth a combined £5.14 billion ($6.62 billion), which run until the end of the 2018-19 season.
Sky is paying £4.18 billion to show 126 matches per season and BT Sport is paying £960 million to show 42 games per season from English soccer's top flight.
Exclusive live coverage of both the Champions League and Uefa Europa League will continue on BT Sport until 2021 after the telecoms giant retained the rights earlier this year.
Having invested £897 million in the rights for the current cycle, BT will pay £1.18 billion – or £394 million per season – from 2018-19 to 2020-21.
Analyst Paolo Pescatore, vice president, multiplay and media at CCS Insight, told Broadband TV News that the results were disappointing, saying: “More than double consumer line losses is a worry and TV net additions was extremely disappointing. More so in in light of the new European football season given the huge focus on sports and TV services. Despite its strong assets, the company is struggling to cross sell more services into its existing subscriber base. Marc Allera [the chief executive of BT’s consumer business] faces some tough decisions with the integration of the consumer units and the forthcoming Premier League rights auction.”
The league is in the process of preparing the tender for media rights from 2019-20 to 2021-22, with the tender set to be launched in the coming weeks, although the packages have yet to be finalised.In June, Sky and BT Sport cited the changing viewing habits of the public as a significant reason for a drop in television audiences for live matches in the 2016-17 Premier League campaign, the first in the present three-year rights cycle.
Sky and BT were addressing figures from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board, showing declining viewing figures for the Premier League last season.
Sky experienced its biggest fall in viewers since 2010, with the average figure for its live coverage dropping by 14 per cent, while the number of viewing hours was down by 6 per cent.
BT Sport experienced a 2-per-cent fall in average viewing.
However, reporting its second-quarter figures today, BT said: “Our TV customer base continues to grow with TV net adds of 7,000 taking our base to 1.8m and we introduced a charge for BT Sport for BT TV customers.”
It added: “During the quarter, we began streaming our weekly rugby union magazine show, Rugby Tonight, for free on social media platforms. In addition, BT Sport Score, the football results show, is now available to anyone using Twitter in the UK. These initiatives provide potential subscribers with the opportunity to sample our programming and underline our commitment to make televised sport more accessible to fans.”
Overall, BT reported revenues down 1 per cent to £5.9 billion and underlying revenue down 1.5 per cent. Meanwhile, adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) were down 4 per cent to £1.8 billion, reflecting investment in sports rights and customer experience, along with higher pension costs, business rates and decline in global services partly offset by cost savings.
Gavin Patterson, BT’s chief executive, said of the overall results: “Our first half results are in line with our expectations as encouraging results in our consumer facing lines of business, notably EE [the mobile phone network that it acquired for £12.5 billion at the start of 2016], helped offset ongoing challenges in our enterprise divisions, in particular Global Services. Given our underlying business performance, we are maintaining our outlook for the year.”