BT Sport MD explains why the Premier League rights are vital to the wider BT Group

Andrew Haworth, BT Sport MD explains the value of football

Despite being an eye-watering investment for BT, the Premier League rights significantly boost the media and telecom company's relevancy to consumers, according to Andy Haworth, managing director of strategy and content, consumer of BT Sport.

Haworth gave an impassioned argument at Mobile World Congress today (26 February), claiming it is content that drives the network.

Reflecting on BT's entrance into the television market against a powerful Sky that hitherto dominated the UK pay TV entertainment and sports packages, he said: "Half of our customers were buying TV and broadband together, as the number one broadband provider in the UK, not having access to or being credible [in TV} was going to create real structural challenges."

In 2015, BT put down nearly £1bn for two packages of Premier League games, the competition with Sky driving the average match price over £10m. Haworth said: "It is a sizable amount of money we asked the board to stand behind but we very much looked at the future of our business, we very much looked at the future of the broadband marketplace."

He added: "The realisation was that we had to be credible in triple play and content to be a successful content provider."

On the allure of the inarguably expensive Premier League rights, in which two packages are still up for grabs, Haworth said: "You get to leverage and benefit from the great brands of the Premier League like Manchester United, in a way that is really hard to do in any other genre. In entertainment you have to build brands and if you haven’t got the audience it can be very difficult, in sport, from day one you can leverage those great brands and customers know what they are getting."

He said if BT Sport did not make a show for the Premier League that its proposition would "lack something".

Along with Premier League packages BT also snapped up the rights to the Champions League, another costly endeavour. However Haworth argued that it was worth the risk.

"When we looked at Premier League and Champions League, the contingent value that we got when we put them together really unlocked real scale, that any of them on their own would never have achieved."

On the power of content to BT's proposition to consumers, he added: "Content is driving networks now almost exclusively so you have to have a very clear interlocking plan. We often talk about the financials and the volume and the hosting but there are a whole host of benefits from being involved in sports.

"Our investors understand that value that sport brings to BT as a business. It is a core part of our portfoilio. For us networks is key, fibre and 5G but content drives those networks, how we bring content and networks together is crucially important. Sport has really transformed the BT brand, historically it was quite transactional, it lacked day-to-day relevance."

Haworth concluded: "Sport is connecting us to that younger audience, making that emotional connection, those ar some of the softer benefits."

This month’s issue of The Drum magazine focuses on the mobile sector with insights on the democratisation of photography and interview with US recording artist Ryan Leslie who shared his personal mobile number with the world to help his fan engagement and a look at the longevity of the low-cost smartphone market in China and India. Buy your copy of this issue and other copies through The Drum website.

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