Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Thrilling match for BT Sport opener

BT is hoping to break Sky's grip on football coverage

BT Sport has made its English Premier League debut with a thrilling opening match.

Viewers were treated to a scintillating contest at Anfield with Liverpool beating Stoke City one-nil.

The result belied the excitement of the tie which saw countless chances created and a last-gasp penalty save.

It marked the start of the broadcaster's battle for viewers. The new contender hopes to break Sky's grip on armchair sports fans by enabling its broadband customers to watch Premier League football for free. It paid £738 million for the rights to show 38 top-flight games a season for the next three years.

BT Sport has signed some top talent from the BBC, including presenter Jake Humphrey who was joined in the studio by pundits Steve McManaman, the former England and Real Madrid midfielder, Owen Hargreaves, who played for Manchester United and England, and Tony Pulis, the former Stoke City manager.

This week BT Sport announced it had tripled its number of viewers to three million by signing a deal with Virgin Media.

Sky has not taken the challenge lying down. It is starting the season with a day of free football, with shows that normally go out on Sky Sports 1 being shown instead on Sky2 and Pick TV for free.

It has also found its very own Anfield old boy. Recently retired Jamie Carragher has teamed up in the studio with his old rival from down the East Lancs Road, ex-Manchester United star Gary Neville.

The game is big business for newspapers too with The Sun, The Times and its Sunday stablemate all carrying "near-live" clips from hundreds of games over the season. News UK said its Sun+ Goals app, available to readers who have signed up to pay for the paper's new digital package, will give fans a full highlights package within around half an hour of the final whistle.

Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: "We're delighted to have kicked off our Premier League coverage with such an exciting match. The season ahead promises to be a great one for fans and we will be at the heart of the action. Three million homes are already able to watch BT Sport on their TVs and we have received some great feedback saying how fresh and vibrant our coverage is."

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