BT Sport is a group of pay television sports channels provided by BT Consumer; a division of BT Group in the United Kingdom and Ireland that was launched on 1 August 2013. The channels are based at the former International Broadcast Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. BT Sport is available on the BT TV, Sky and Virgin Media television platforms in the UK and Sky, Eir TV and Vodafone TV in the Republic of Ireland.
BT Sport holds exclusive live UK and Republic of Ireland TV rights to 52 Premier League matches per season, the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UFC, National League, Ligue 1, Serie A, the European Rugby Challenge Cup, the Premiership Rugby Cup, MotoGP, the FIH Hockey World League and WWE. They are also the official broadcast partner of the European Rugby Champions Cup and Premiership Rugby. BT Sport also holds shared rights to the Scottish Professional Football League with Sky Sports and BBC Alba. In 2015, BT Sport launched their showcase service in SD and in HD in 2017. The SD service closed on 9 May 2017 and the HD service in 2018.
News of BT’s first foray into sports broadcasting first came about on 12 June 2012 when it was announced that they had won the rights to 38 live Premier League matches for three seasons from the 2013-14 season, beating American broadcast partner ESPN who had held the shared rights with Sky Sports the previous season. BT announced at the same time that it would be launching its own channel for its new football coverage. The news followed speculation that ESPN was reconsidering its position in the UK. The following months also saw BT win rights to Premiership Rugby and its associated 7s Series, and American, Brazilian, French and Italian top-flight football. On 25 February 2013, BT agreed to acquire ESPN’s UK and Ireland TV channels business, consisting of ESPN and ESPN America (ESPN Classic was not included). BT would continue to broadcast at least one ESPN branded channel since the deal’s completion date of 31 July, as part of its BT Sport package of services. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but BT was understood to be paying “low tens of millions”. On 2 May 2013, BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 2 were added to the BT TV EPG, followed by Sky the next day along with an on-screen message that the channel was coming soon. On Sky, the channels replaced BT’s placeholders, Sailing 1 and 2. The BT-owned terrestrial feeds of Sky Sports 1 and 2, which were also used for Top Up TV, were dropped on 1 July in favour of BT Sport 1 and 2. The Channels started broadcasting on 1 August 2013, on the same day ESPN America ceased to broadcast and ESPN became ESPN from BT Sport; broadcasting most of ESPN America’s content. BT signed a wholesale deal with Virgin Media on 15 August 2013 bringing the channels free of charge to customers on the TV XL package. An interactive service, BT Sport Extra, launched in September 2014, broadcasting additional content at selected times. One video stream was available at launch which expanded to seven in August 2015. BT Sport Extra can be accessed directly from the EPG on YouView boxes and from the red button on Sky and Virgin Media. On 9 June 2015, ESPN from BT Sport was rebranded BT Sport ESPN.
On 1 August 2015, BT launched three new channels: BT Sport Europe, a dedicated channel for its coverage of European football and rugby union including the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and rugby challenge and champions cups; BT Sport Showcase, a free-to-air only HD channel which would show a number of sporting events unencrypted via Freeview such as Champions League; and BT Sport Ultra HD, the UK’s first and only 4K television channel which will broadcast a number of events in ultra-high-definition exclusively on BT TV. On 4 August 2016, BT Sport Europe was renamed BT Sport 3 and BT Sport Ultra HD to BT Sport 4K UHD. A similar channel to BT Sport Showcase was made available on Virgin media named BT Sport Free. BT Sport 4K UHD was further rebranded BT Sport Ultimate on 2 August 2019.
BT Sport Box Office
In April 2018, BT Sport revealed its intention to launch BT Sport Box Office, a pay-per-view channel to show live boxing and in August BT Sport announced that the channel would launch on 15 September.
In the UK, BT Sport is available in standard definition with all BT TV packages for BT Broadband customers, programming is also available in UHD called BT Sport Ultimate to BT Infinity customers for an additional fee. On Sky and Plusnet TV BT Sport 1 only is currently offered for free to broadband subscribers as ‘BT Sport Lite’, regardless of what subscription they have. Customers who wish to view the remaining channels can subscribe to the ‘BT Sport Pack’ in either standard or high definition. BT also provide broadband subscribers access to the channels via the BT Sport online player and mobile app. BT Sport pack Subscribers also receive BoxNation in standard definition only and Sky UK customers also have exclusive access to AMC from BT in the relevant definition. Virgin Media customers receive BT Sport 1, 2, 3 and ESPN in HD and BT Sport Ultimate as part of their “Full House” bundle however, they do not receive BoxNation or AMC from BT. TalkTalk TV customers must subscribe to the BT Sport Pack in order to receive the entire range of channels. In the Republic of Ireland, BT Sport channels (except Ultimate) are bundled with Eir Sport subscriptions across all platforms, as a part of a deal BT had with what was Setanta Sports back then. The deal means BT Sport 1, 2, 3, ESPN and BoxNation are part of the Eir Sport Pack in the Republic, along with Eir Sport 1 and Eir Sport 2. In addition Freeview HD customers received BT Sport Showcase and Virgin Media customers received BT Sport Free. They closed on 30 June 2018. On 4 December 2018, the SD versions of BT Sport and BT Sport ESPN stopped broadcasting on Virgin Media.