Setanta joins BT Vision to offer free football

BT Vision is dropping its £9.99 monthly subscription charge to offer Setanta Sports 1 – including live Premier League football and England internationals – free of charge by shaking up its channel packages in a move which industry watchers see as a direct challenge to Sky Sports’ dominance of the converging market.

Today’s deal will allow BT to offer 46 live Premier League games, 60 Scottish Premier League matches, FA Cup action and live World Cup qualifiers to customers paying a minimum of £14 for one of its new TV packages.

The Setanta offer is open immediately to new customers and existing customers who sign up to additional packages, and also includes a £10 one-off fee for a viewing card. The channel will be made available from August 6, ahead of the start of the football season.

“Our compelling offer of the premium sports channel Setanta Sports 1 free with our viewing packages proves you don’t have to pay sky-high prices to watch top-flight football,” said BT Vision chief executive Dan Marks.

“We’ve said that BT Vision will be offering the best in all-round entertainment. We now have more to watch than any other on-demand TV service in the country and this includes the very best of sport.”

BT’s bold move into the world of television has attracted 250,000 customers. Marks today reiterated his target of 2 million to 3 million subscribers for the hybrid Freeview and broadband TV service by 2012.

As well as the new packages – films, children’s, sport and music – all BT Vision customers can watch Freeview channels and various video-on-demand offerings.

BT also today announced a deal with the Scottish Premier League to show an additional 28 on-demand matches a season to those who subscribe to its sports pack, which also includes “as live” coverage of 242 Premier League games.

For Setanta, the deal allows it to increase its subscriber base and bring in additional cash flow in the wake of its high-profile grab for major sports rights.

This season is seen as crucial for the pay-TV company, which has promised to increase its direct subscriptions by one-third from around 1.1 million to 1.7 million by next summer.

* BT Vision, sponsors of the Sports Journalists’ Association, are staging a special pre-season debate on the future of football on television in the Diamond Club at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday, July 24, and is inviting SJA members and other sports journalists to attend.

Among the guests will be Martin Keown, the former Arsenal and England centre back and now an ambassador for BT Vision, together with Trevor East, head of sport at Setanta, and Dan Marks, the chief executive of BT Vision. For more details and to make a booking for this event, click here.

SJA MEMBERS: Make sure your profile details are up to date in the 2009 SJA Yearbook by clicking here