Arsenal vs. Chelsea, Manchester United vs. Manchester City, Arsenal vs. Spurs. These are clashes between giants of the game, swinging their weight around in an effort to reign supreme. It's nothing if not exciting, but for those months between seasons, a different type of battle takes hold, as TV channel wages war with TV channel. It's no secret that BT Sport and Sky Sports are in direct competition, and their rivalry only grows hotter with each passing day.
Since its launch in 2013, BT Sport has found itself an audience and a large number of Premier League games, thanks to their surprise performance in the Premier League rights auction of 2011 which saw them land 38 live games per season until 2016, and the most recent rights auction which will see them net 42 games per season from 2016 to 2019. From there, they worked tirelessly to bring other footballing competitions to the channel, including the FA Cup, Serie A, Ligue 1, Europa League and, of course, the Champions League.
That last competition caused some serious heat between BT and Sky, as BT won the bidding at £897 million for three years of exclusive coverage. Understandably, Sky losing out on the highest quality footballing competition in the world to the upstart BT Sport stung just a little bit, especially when you consider that BT Sport is free to view.
Needless to say, Sky are still a little sore about the whole thing, and the boss of Sky Sports, Barney Francis, recently demonstrated that in a blog post, where he explained how he's not upset about the breakup at all. Indeed, he claimed that Champions League football accounted for just 2.5% of the viewers for Sky Sports, and that the Premier League was seven times bigger than the European competition.
In the blog, Mr Francis said 'Over the last five seasons we have seen Champions League audiences fall 38 per cent. Last season we saw our lowest ever average match audience and not a single European game appeared in our top 40 football matches. In football, it's the intense rivalry of our domestic competitions that matters most to customers. You only have to look at the viewing figures to see the evidence.'
It's a compelling argument, but it doesn't obscure the fact that Sky lost one of its big name competitions to its most direct competition at a time when subscriber numbers are crucial to paying off the massive bill they've got with the new Premier League rights deal. It's pretty hard to imagine that Sky are happy with the way things are, and are simply firing off a few shots to remind customers that they're still the place where you can see the lions share of Premier League games, something they will hope will keep customers from cancelling on the Sky billing number.
For BT Sport, meanwhile, it's just another huge tournament to add to their roster. The price, meanwhile, is going up. At the moment, BT Sport is free to those with BT broadband packages, but with the launch of new channels BT Sport Europe, BT Sport Showcase and BT Sport Ultra HD, you'll need to pay £5 per month in order to access all the great new games. BT Sport 1 will remain free, but it will be renamed BT Sport Lite.
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