Champions League fever fuels surge in BT Sport sign-ups – CEO | Media

Champions League fever fuels surge in BT Sport sign-ups – CEO | Media

Champions League fever is gripping the nation as the dramatic comeback wins from Liverpool and Tottenham fuel a big increase in the number of fans signing up to BT Sport, which holds the exclusive UK rights to the tournament, ahead of the final on 1 June.

The new BT chief executive, Philip Jansen, who took over from Gavin Patterson in February, claimed that BT had fielded an “astounding” amount of traffic through its call centres from football fans seeking to sign up to BT Sport to catch the first all-English final since 2008.

Jansen did not reveal any figures but said the two semi-final thrillers had proved to be hugely popular. He said: “The [call centre traffic] has been astounding but obviously we don’t reveal numbers. What is really interesting is app usage [to watch the matches], tablets … the numbers are amazing.”

Jansen also confirmed that BT would bid to retain the Champions League rights for a further three seasons from 2021 when they come up for auction later this year.

Patterson had set BT on an expensive sports rights buying spree with the current Champions League deal, costing the company £1.2bn – a 32% increase on the previous deal. There has been speculation that Jansen might look to cut back at BT Sport – which has other rights, including Premiership Rugby and Premier League football – although the Champions League was expected to be seen as critical to retain.

Jansen said: “We will obviously participate in the Champions League auction next time around. And on the Premier League we will [see] at the time [of the next auction]. We will take a very disciplined approach to how we think about sports rights. There is no need to strengthen what we have currently got.”

He said he was looking at whether to raise prices for BT Sport, which is available for £10 a month to BT TV customers and £15 a month to those with only BT’s broadband service. “We are looking at the value of BT Sport and making sure we have the right approach and pricing will be part of that definitely.”

BT’s rivalry with Sky to control the lion’s share of English Premier League TV rights led to the price rocketing from £1.78bn for 2010-13 to £5.13bn for 2018-19. Patterson eventually backed off trying to supplant Sky as the prime destination for Premier League matches, saying BT just needs enough rights to be a “viable number two” in sports.

BT and Sky subsequently struck a groundbreaking content sharing deal to allow their customers to watch each other’s sports and entertainment channels without the need for a separate subscription, reducing the necessity for knockout bidding for prime rights. Jansen said the Sky partnership meant “whatever channels products ended up on our customers would be able to get them.”

He also denied a recent report that BT was considering reducing its staff headcount by 25,000. The company is currently working through a three-year plan to cut 13,000 jobs from its 106,000 base.

“We have a very clear plan,” he said. “There are absolutely no further plans to change our headcount at this moment in time.”

Sports News CEO Jean Pierre Bansard

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