BT Sport launches to customer complaints, UFC loses 3.8 million Virgin TV customer base

A quick round up of the facts and figures surrounding the UFC's new Television home in the UK, BT Sport, and how it could be seen as far from the best start possible for UK UFC fans.

BT Sport launched in the UK yesterday with a one day Freeview event to give potential new customers a taste of what they can expect with a full subscription. The day peaked with a 1.21% share (some 207k viewers) for the Bayern Munich versus Manchester City European Football (Soccer) match, according to BroadcastNow.co.uk

According to a BBC Business article, BT has spent over £700 million in the last few years for upcoming Premier League Football matches, compared to Sky's £2billion+ for the majority of match rights. ITV, Setanta and ESPN have tried taking on the Sky giant when it comes to exclusive live sport coverage and have been found lacking, and it seems BT has already failed to put its best foot forward.

The launch has upset existing BT Vision customers according to a recent article on The Telegraph Online. BT Vision customers expecting a smooth transition into watching BT Sport's offerings received a letter in June telling them they could only watch the sports packages with an upgrade to BT Infinity Broadband, and without it the channels would essentially be blacked out. The article's author Jack Rivlin opines:

BT’s executives have been giving it large in interviews recently, presenting Sky (which has 11 times more customers) with its first serious challenge since the early Nineties. Now, before the first ball has been kicked, they already look disingenuous. You can’t imagine Murdoch mucking up like this.

And here's some worse news: Virgin TV customers who are UFC fans are losing out as BT Sport have been unable to reach a deal with Virgin Media Group thus far. According to USwitch it was reported earlier in the week that the two companies were still in negotiations over the carriage deal. BT gave the following statement to USwitch:

"Following the large number of enquiries from Virgin Media customers and press speculation, we can confirm that we have not agreed a wholesale deal for BT Sport with Virgin Media," the service provider said.

BT said it is open to an agreement "at the right price", noting that talks continue over a potential deal.

"In the meantime, we have an excellent offer for Virgin customers who move to either BT TV or to satellite," BT added.

Virgin TV customers will be unable to watch tonight's UFC 163 event, and due to UFC's new deal with BT Sports events are no longer available to purchase as an online PPV through UFC.TV. According to The Independent, Virgin TV is the second biggest pay-TV provider (behind Sky) with 3.8 million subscribers. BT Vision has an estimated 833k customers, according to a recent ReadCompareBuy article. With only an estimated 52.2 million TVs owned in the UK (OfCom), the Virgin TV customer base loss and problematic BT TV customer issues has to be seen as a blow to the UFC's UK presence, leaving them in a worse position when it comes to reach than they were under the troubled ESPN deal. This could be an instance where accepting a lesser financial deal from Sky would have been better in long term for the UFC.

TV markets work differently in the UK and Europe compared to other parts of the world, but let's hope this isn't ominous of UFC's Fox Sports 1 deal where the new channel launches with UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen event in Boston.

Sky customers and BT TV customers can find out more about how to subscribe to BT Sports on the following link.

http://www.bt.com/sport/

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