Sky News: BT Ireland is in advanced-stage talks with Sky Sport and UPC to make its new sports channels available to satellite subscription customers. The firm is confident that agreements will be secured before the start of the new football season later this summer. It is also talking with a number of other companies. In the UK, the plan for BT Group is to offer its BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN channels free to broadband subscribers. The move aims to expand the customer base. But separate arrangements are needed to show content in the Republic of Ireland, where BT operates in the wholesale and business broadband sector, but not the consumer market. The BT Sport team has therefore entered discussion with several firms to make the three channels available on Sky and UPV paid-for platforms. It is “fully confident that BT Sport will be available in the Republic of Ireland before the soccer season begins”, the group said. BT Ireland has also recently revealed its year-end figures, which show that revenue increased 4% to &740 million for the 12 months to the end of March. Profit before tax was flat on the previous year. No profit figures are published for the Irish division. “We have delivered a solid year of growth in revenues and maintained profit and cash flow in a challenging economic environment,” said BT Ireland chief executive Colm O’Neill. The firm’s wholesale division provides network services to more than 50 communications firms. News contracts signed last year included Sky customer service Ireland, AirSpeed, Telecom and UTV. New contracts in the public sector were won by the business division. Local loop unbundling was also completed at 88 Eircom telephone exchanges, giving wholesale customers a broadband offer of up to 24 Mbps. “Significant investment” has been made in the network infrastructure, but a planned sub-loop unbundling in several locations, which could have offered speeds of up to 80 Mbps, did not go ahead. BT is working with Eircom to trial new fibre broadband services, Mr O’Neill explained. The strong full-year results saw BT Group share prices jump 10% to a five-and-a-half-year high. Core profit rose 2% to £6.2 billion, in spite of a 5% drop in revenue. Steps are being taken to enter the sports broadcasting market in Britain, with Premier League football and other sports rights deals agreed, totalling £1 billion. BT has already agreed to ESPN’s British and Ireland TV channels and will continue to operate one ESPN-branded channel.
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