BT Sport won the rights for the matches as part of a three-year c£900m deal back in November 2013, but only this week unveiled its package for pubs as part of star-studded launch in London.
What’s the deal for pubs?
A new BT Sport Total Pack has been launched which will give pubs a channel line-up of BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, ESPN on BT Sport and BT Sport Europe – its new home for European football. Pubs will be able to show up to 223 Champions League and Europa League matches exclusively live.
What are the potential benefits?
The new deal means BT Sport owns the midweek space with matches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. This will create 49 ‘midweek match nights’ for pubs looking to drive trade at an average cost of, according to BT Sport calculations, £30 per match night.
There will be a limited free-to-air offering – just 12 Champions League and 14 Europa League matches will be shown next season, including at least one featuring every British team in the competitions. This digital channel will be called BT Sport Showcase.
In terms of showing matches involving Premier League clubs, up until now the broadcaster has been restricted to a limited number of top flight matches, alongside FA Cup and Europa League, totalling about 55 games. From next season that number will more than double to an estimated 113.
BT Sport says that’s important as, according to research conducted on its behalf, football is overwhelmingly the main footfall driver for pubs showing TV sport, and matches involving Premier League teams are best for trade.
How much does it cost?
BT Sport says that the “average” independent pub will pay £395 a month, but pubs that want the Total package could fork out anything up to £1,700 a month because, as with Sky, subscription cost is based on a pub’s rateable value.
The average price represents a significant uplift of more than £180 per month based on last season’s prices. BT Sport argues that the increase is reflective of the fact that it’s a new product with lots more content. It has crunched the numbers and claims that the average price still represents a 60% saving versus an equivalent Sky Sports package.
Price reduction and loyalty bonus
By way of a sweetener, BT Sport is offering a price decrease of 7% for pubs who don’t want the new European football channel. So if Premier League football is a draw for your pub, and you’re not fussed about the midweek European clashes, then you will actually pay less for the same number (38) of top flight games. However, some FA Cup and Premiership rugby matches have also been lost.
This pricing structure is a not-so-subtle swipe at Sky’s recent decision to freeze prices for the forthcoming season despite it having a lot fewer games to show. BT’s director commercial customers Bruce Cuthbert said: “Sky Sports’ standard prices haven’t changed as they continue to charge customers the same price for a package that has lost 129 Champions League games.”
In addition, pubs who are existing customers will receive a loyalty discount of up to 15% dependent on when they signed up.
What’s the talent line-up?
BT Sport has secured the big guns when it comes to on-screen talent as it looks to compete with Sky’s stellar line-up of pundits and in-depth analysis. Gary Lineker has come on board to anchor its coverage, alongside new signings Steven Gerrard, Glenn Hoddle and Rio Ferdinand and existing pundits Michael Owen, Ian Wright, Robbie Savage, plus others.
Any other benefits?
BT Sport is upping its game with a revamped support offer to pubs. A new website called The Manager’s Office will feature fixture details and posters, as well as images and video clips for use on social media. A new Twitter account @BTSportBars will act as a further promotional channel, as well as featuring news and giveaways.
From 1 July, a new deal with digital screen company Screach will let licensees turn their TVs into a marketing and sales tool promoting their own events plus upcoming BT Sport matches. The first 1,000 pubs that sign up will get free equipment and installation.
The price for pubs of showing top flight Premier League and Champions League matches across both BT Sport and Sky has gone up – that is fact. While the transfer of matches away from free-to-air channels towards subscription-only presents licensees with an opportunity to drive extra trade, especially during quieter days, for those pubs for which football is an essential part of their offer it will inevitably mean further cost pressures.
For pubs that are happy with a sport-lite package without European football then BT Sport’s standard deal will look attractive.
The trade remains convinced that pubs are the best place to watch the big matches, let’s hope enough customers get that message and choose their local over their sofas.