The news that British Telecom is to give all broadband customers free access to its sports channels, including coverage of Premier League games, seems to have contributed to a boost in its share price.
Its stock rose 11 per cent Friday after it announced flat revenue in its key retail division, ending a streak of declines over the past several years.
The Wall Street Journal (whose parent News Corp has a big stake in Sky) commented, "BT doesn't have what it takes to be a soccer star. But its investment in the game may give it an edge."
The performance was driven by accelerating growth in broadband subscribers and a healthy takeup for its fiber-optic cable service, the only such service in the U.K.. said the American paper.
BT had just 810,000 broadband customers at the end of March and plans to spend £1 billion over the next three years on sports rights, mostly for soccer.
BT's free soccer, says the WSJ, is unlikely to tempt sports fans to drop Sky Sport, which airs more than 100 soccer games a season, compared with 38 games on BT Sport.
The real benefit will be persuading customers to choose BT's broadband service, which has more subscribers than any other U.K. provider.
That is bad news for other broadband providers, including BSkyB and Virgin Media. How will they react? Watch this space.
But BSkyB's margins would suffer heavily if it discounted its flagship sports content, said the WSJ.
BT's shares have rallied 33% this year.With the boost from soccer still to come, investors should stay tuned.