BT TV won’t ‘bid any price’ when it comes to sports rights and thinks mobile will take its coverage to the next level

BT is not willing to "bid any price" when it comes to TV sports rights despite a desire to grow a sport offering that will have a bigger presence on smaller screens moving forward.

Speaking to The Drum at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, BT's managing director of TV and Sport, Delia Bushell, said: "We're not there to bid any price to win, we take a view of where they fit into the strategic vision of BT Sport and how much it's really worth paying."

Paying a flying visit to the festival on the eve of the Champions League group draw, Bushell revealed brand awareness of BT Sport has been lifted massively in the last few weeks with a brand tracker in CityAM providing the "first real signs that our Champions League campaign has had a real transformative effect."

Launched late July, the campaign, which features Rio Ferdinand, David Luiz and Frank Ribery, is indicative of the broadcaster's Champions League plans said Bushell, adding it would be "slightly fresher and more informal" than viewers may be used to to create a vibrant, fun and engaging feel.

"If you look at out rugby coverage, we tried to take a more informal approach to the production, whether that was going pitchside or doing things like demos of rugby techniques on Rugby Tonight," she explained.

"With Champions League we're trying to retain those values. We have new augmented reality sets, really good analytical capabilities for our pundits and the BT Sport app is really bringing a whole other dimension."

During her session earlier in the day when pressed on plans to start charging for BT Sport, Bushell took the view that BT Sport has made the competition more accessible to a wider audience having previously been gated behind "£16-£17 subscription fees."

"The market is transitioning and what I see as 'full fat pay TV' is already well served by Sky and Virgin, the growth market is in Freeview customers looking to upgrade to what I call Pay TV Lite and people looking to downsize their subscriptions…2m+ customers now have access to Champions League football which didn't have previously."

With its sports rights spanning football, rugby and now cricket, BT has taken, what Bushell called, "a big step forward" and set its sights on "mass appeal" with the launch of AMC in the UK.

"Of all the work over the last six months - transforming our BT TV offering, the range of channels, adding Netflix, TV Everywhere and our Buy to Keep service - AMC is really the pinnacle of all that," she said, with Fear the Walking Dead getting its UK premiere on the channel.

Plans for a standalone BT Drama channel, however, were shot down earlier in the day.

"AMC is the BT Drama channel," Bushell told festival-goers adding that the broadcaster had turned down the Top Gear team earlier in the summer during its search for a new home. "It [Top Gear] didn't make sense for us, it has global appeal and really is more at home on a Netflix or Amazon-style service."

Interestingly, at the end of her Q&A Bushell alluded to the broadcaster's plans for mobile, hinting if the EE acquisition gets the green light as a "quad player" BT would look to integrate mobile more.

"Second screening is very important, especially in terms of sport, broader entertainment is more tricky…great content is great content and we want to make it as useable as possible."

For live coverage of this year's Edinburgh International TV Festival visit The Drum's Storify page.

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