BT embarks on crusade to dominate UK premium TV

UK telco BT has launched the latest phase of its grand plan to wrest control of the UK premium TV market from Sky with its largest ever marketing campaign for BT TV.

In recent years BT has rapidly evolved from being solely a fixed-line telephony and broadband player to the dominant multiplay company in the UK via the acquisition of the largest MNO EE and a bunch of premium telly such as Premier League and Champions League football. The multiplay domination strategy is to offer such an overwhelming bundle of digital goodness that consumers would have to be barking mad not to subscribe.

BT’s cash cow remains broadband, and the hefty line rental fees it charges consumers and wholesale customers alike, so the other components of its multiplay bundle can be viewed as inducements to sweeten the broadband deal. This is illustrated by the angle taken by the new ad campaign, which is to dangle the carrot of all this juicy premium TV for just £3 per month, then whack on another £28.99 of service charge and line rental in the small print.

“Our biggest campaign to date aims to win over customers who want the great content and functionality that a premium TV service offers, but without the sky-high prices usually associated with pay TV,” said David Stratton, GM of Marketing for BT TV & BT Sport, clearly taking aim at Sky.

The TV, outdoor, radio, digital and social media ad campaign launched two days ago, coinciding with a report that BT has also been trying to guy out the other members of set-top box consortium YouView. This, let’s not forget, was the platform that was supposed to define the UK smart TV business, having initially started as Project Canvas way back in 2008 as a partnership between BT, BBC and ITV. Within a year channel 4 and TalkTalk had also signed up but by the time it launched in 2012 a number of alternatives such as Freeview were already established.

New BT subscribers get at least a basic (no hard drive) YouView box as part of the deal and BT apparently considers it to be an important part of the bundle. According to the (as yet unconfirmed) report, BT is frustrated at the pace of development on the platform, compared to the efforts of Sky and Virgin Media, and wants to take total ownership of the gig. It seems to be low-balling its partners in take-over discussions, however, with the Beed especially stubborn in pushing for more.

BT has faced a pretty benign regulatory environment during its multiplay push, with the EE acquisition being high-fived all the way to the bank and an Ofcom investigation into Premier League football rights limiting Sky’s virtual monopoly in that market. This ad campaign has an air of triumphalism about it and how BT rivals respond will be crucial.

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