BT reveals sports channel boom

BT today revealed that more than half a million people have signed up to its new sport channels before their launch next month.

The group hopes to break Sky’s grip on armchair sports fans by enabling broadband customers to watch Premier League football for free, after it bought the rights to show 38 top flight games a season.

BT added another 95,000 retail broadband customers during the three months to the end of June, 12 per cent stronger than the growth a year earlier, giving it 6.8 million customers.

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Underlying pre-tax profits beat City expectations to rise five per cent to £595m, but higher restructuring costs pushed bottom line profits down 16 per cent to £449m.

BT launched the first serious challenge to Sky in pay-TV sport when it bid £738m for the three-year package of Premier League football last year - part of plans to attract customers to its broadband business.

The channels launch on August 1 ahead of the start of the Premier League season on August 17, and cost BT £40m in start-up charges during the quarter.

Most of those who signed up to BT Sport were existing broadband customers who already watch TV through Sky or BT boxes.

BT added 23,000 new TV customers during the quarter, up 10 per cent on 21,000 a year earlier, to give it 833,000 TV customers. It expects new TV and broadband customers to accelerate after it launches the channels.

Outgoing chief executive Ian Livingston said while it is still early, BT has made a “strong start” in sport.

Underlying revenues dipped one per cent, with total revenues down by the same percentage to £4.45bn as higher regulation and Europe’s recession weighed.