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BT defiant in BSkyB battle

The head of BT’s television business has warned the UK telco will not be “chased out of town” as its fight with BSkyB escalates ahead of the new English Premier League football season.

CEO Marc Watson said on Thursday that BT is “not that easy to chase out of town,” ahead of the launch of its two BT Sport channels, which will be available to owners of its BT Vision DTT/IPTV set-top boxes from August 1.

“We intend to stick around in this game for the long term,” Watson said at a Broadcasting Press Guild event. “We are a big business, this is our home market. We do have the deep pockets to really compete in the market and to compliment and co-exist with Sky for many years to come.”

BT announced its arrival on the live sport scene in the UK last year when it agreed a three-year deal to pay £246m (US$398m) a season for 38 live Premier League games, including 18 ‘first picks’ that will enable it to show the best game of the weekend ahead of the league’s main broadcaster, Sky Sports.

BT, which currently has more than 800,000 pay TV customers, also paid £152m for live Rugby Union rights over three years in a controversial deal that split the sport’s main European competition.

Watson’s comments come after thousands of BT Vision pay TV customers look set to lose their Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels from August.

BT has filled these DTT slots – occupied by Sky Sports for the past three years – with its new BT Sport channels, meaning BT Vision subscribers will only have access via BT’s top-level broadband service.

The move into live sports broadcasting is designed to boost BT’s triple-play customer base – subscribers who take TV, phone and broadband from a single supplier.

But Watson said BT was about “much more than just sport,” adding that he would not rule out BT launching more channels or producing its own entertainment content in the future.

“Sport is very important to people but other content is just as important. To be successful you have to offer a broad view of content,” he said.

His comments came as Sky launched the latest salvo in the ongoing battle for football fans, announcing it will make live games avaiable free to view for the first time in its history on the first day of the new season.

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