BT are hedging their bets on a decision from Ofcom on whether Sky will be forced to reduce the cost of their premium content such as Sky Sports and Sky Movies when sold to other providers on a wholesale basis. Currently, these channels are only available via a Sky or Virgin subscription package, and are quite costly. Virgin are thought to actually lose money on them with current costs at an average of £20.72.
Ofcom's board are to meet soon to discuss the price at which Sky can sell these channels and is expected to release a report at the end of March that will detail its decision. BT are hoping the price will fall and it will be able to sell Sky Sports at a price in the "mid teens", a large discount over the current £25.50 for Sky Sports 1 direct from Sky, or £34.50 for all 4 Sky Sports channels.
Any price reductions will be good for consumer choice, but also good for BT as they are now allowed to market bundled packages including telephone lines, broadband and TV to customers as a triple play service. Getting more premium content such as Premiership Football from the Sky Sports channels should help them increase their BT Vision customers from around 436,000 up in to the millions that they desires.
"We are looking at a range of scenarios at the moment. I wouldn't want to give too much away but suffice to say we want to make it very attractive to customers.
"At the moment, if you are an avid sports fan you can really only buy sports on the so-called buy-through model – you effectively have to buy basic programming and then premium sports on top. That isn't good for customers; it doesn't give them choice. We believe that many of our customers really want access to premium sports but they don't necessarily want all the basic channels you have to get there."Gavin Patterson, (Chief Executive) BT Retail
Sky are obviously planning to fight any decision that will go against them, with talk of legal action if they are forced to reduce wholesale prices, but BT hopes it will all be sorted out in time for the next football season in August.