Price hike could dampen BT Sport take up
BT Sport gained 500,000 new customers in the last three months but a recent price increase could deter potential new customers from taking up the service.
Previously anyone subscribing to a new BT broadband connection of any type would be given access to BT Sport channels 1 and 2 for no additional cost.
Since Saturday, however, new customers can only sign up for BT Sport if they also take BT Infinity broadband, the provider's more expensive fibre product.
BT have invested millions of pounds in their sports channels and have bolstered subscriber numbers by making the service easily available to existing customers and even those without BT TV.
But a price hike could dampen the channel's meteoric rise.
Price hike for Sport Customers
New customers will now have to pay an extra £8 a month for a BT Infinity package to get free access to BT Sport on their TV.
This change doesn't affect existing BT broadband customers who can still get BT Sport added to their package at no extra cost.
The myriad ways in which it's possible to watch BT Sport are being slightly streamlined by the change, a welcome development since the current pricing structure is extremely complicated.
In short: anyone who wants BT Sport with BT will now need to sign up for BT Infinity.
New customers who sign up to a non-Infinity BT Broadband service won't be able to get BT Sport direct on their television. This option only includes free access via the app or online, though, of course, there is nothing to stop you from hooking up a laptop to the telly.
At present, any customer who lives outside the BT Infinity area and whose broadband is therefore deemed not capable of supporting the full BT TV service, can access BT Sport 1 and 2 for free on their BT TV set top box via the terrestrial signal.
This possibility has been removed for new customers.
Existing customers who don't have BT Infinity can get BT Sport 1 and 2 in standard definition, but need to have a BT Vision+ box rather than a YouView box.
BT broadband customers who have Sky TV can also get BT Sport for free.
Will the price increase lead to BT Sport dive?
BT managed to gain 150,000 new broadband customers in October, November and December 2013.
That's in addition to the 156,000 gained in the previous quarter, all of whom would have received BT Sport for free as a part of their deal.
BT says it currently has "more than 2.5 million" BT Sport customers watching via satellite, BT TV, online player or via the BT Sport app.
An exact breakdown of that figure is not available although its second quarter report mentioned a figure of 900,000 watching BT Sport via BT TV, despite high levels of complaints about BT's pay TV service.
The question executives are now facing is whether they can maintain that momentum when new customers have to sign up for a more expensive product to get BT Sport on BT TV.
Two things are in their favour.
One is that demand for BT Infinity and fibre services in general is strong.
The last two quarters have seen strong growth of its Infinity product and Openreach, BT's wholesale arm, reported that the most recent quarter was its best ever for fibre with 316,000 new connections.
Secondly, as touched on above, BT Sport is available via such a vast array of different methods that it can pull in viewers from other sources to make up for any drop in the number of broadband sign ups.
BT Sport without BT
Anyone with a Sky dish, box and viewing card can get access to BT Sport 1 and 2 plus ESPN, whether BT customer or not.
Consumers that have BT broadband can get the service free, those with a different ISP have to pay a monthly fee.
Similarly, BT have struck a deal with subsidiary Plusnet to offer their customers (with a Sky setup as above) access to those three channels for £5.99 a month, plus a HD option for an extra £1.50.
These deals are part of what makes BT Sport so valuable to the BT business as a whole.
Even if the provider has done itself some damage by raising the price of BT Sport by £8 a month, it may be able to pick up the slack elsewhere.
In addition, after spending £900 million on exclusive rights to the Champions League from 2015/16, BT has shown it is unafraid to splash out to further bolster its sporting offer.
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