LONDON -- U.K. telecoms giant BT said its sports channels BT Sport will be free to its five million-plus BT broadband subscribers.
It will be the first time in more than 20 years that weekly live matches from the Barclays Premier League will be free to air in the U.K.
Programming across the three channels – BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN - includes 38 live and exclusive football matches from the Barclays Premier League.
The games, long considered a driver for Rupert Murdoch's pay TV satellite operator BSkyB will also include 18 “first pick” matches and up to 69 live rugby matches from the Aviva Premiership where BT will be the sole and exclusive broadcaster.
BT Sport will also offer live football from several other top leagues around the world including Germany, France, Italy and Brazil.
There will also be FA Cup ties, the UEFA Europa League, Scottish Premier League plus WTA women’s tennis and action from the UFC.
BT said Thursday it has inked deals to add Moto GP, Women’s Super League football, Australian ‘A’ league soccer and action sport and lifestyle programming from Red Bull Media House.
BT aims to use the lure of sports programming to boost broadband take-up and subscriptions to its BT Vision TV service.
Only one in five U.K. homes currently takes a sports channel, a fact BT said is "possibly due to the high prices that have resulted from there being little real competition."
By offering BT Sport for free with BT broadband, BT said it "hopes to appeal to the vast majority of U.K. homes - more than 20 million - who already have broadband as well as those who haven’t taken it to date." More than five million homes already take their broadband from BT.
BT said it will mount a campaign to lure customers of other ISPs to switch supplier with a discounted rate of $22 (£15) for its fiber optic broadband offering BT Infinity or old school copper broadband from $16 (£10).
The channels will also be available without BT broadband in high definition for $22 per month from BT via Sky’s digital satellite platform or for $16 in standard definition.
BT chief executive Ian Livingston said: "BT Sport will complement our world class fiber network. Customers don’t have to take BT Infinity to get BT Sport but we are encouraging them to move onto fiber broadband so they can enjoy the best of both worlds."
Gavin Patterson, BT Retail chief executive said he thinks the launch of BT Sport "will shake up the market which is great news for sports fans whether their passion is football, rugby or any of the other sports we will be showing."
BT Sport available via BT's own TV service, Sky’s digital satellite platform and also online or via a new app enabling customers to enjoy the channels on the move or at home on their PCs, smartphones, tablets.