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BT vs Sky - Game of Thrones for the broadband and sports markets

Tuesday, July 2nd 2013 by Cable.co.uk
BT and Sky in pitched battle over broadband and live sports offerings
BT and Sky are locked in an ongoing battle for control of the broadband and pay TV sports markets.

A titanic struggle between two fierce rivals hell-bent on achieving victory over the other at whatever cost - no, it's not the plot of some new Game of Thrones-esque drama on Sky Atlantic, but instead the tale of the increasingly bitter feud between Sky and BT.

Until Sky entered the broadband market in 2006, the two companies were happy to co-exist peacefully. Even when the pay TV giant notched up its millionth broadband customer towards the end of 2007, it was still small fry compared to BT, which has dominated the UK broadband market ever since its days as the incumbent provider.

But in recent times, tensions have grown. Sky has proved that it no longer treats broadband simply as a throwaway product to bundle in with its TV and phone offerings; the company has invested pretty heavily in its infrastructure and last year claimed to have deployed the country's first 100Gbps high-speed optical transmission network.

And after Sky recently agreed to acquire Telefonica UK's broadband arm - comprising O2 and Be - to become the UK's second-biggest internet service provider, it's safe to say that BT has been taking its rival very seriously indeed.

Hostilities really seem to have stepped up a gear since BT unveiled plans to encroach on Sky's traditional stronghold - live sports. 

No doubt in response to Sky's growing strength in broadband, BT is to launch its new sports channels at the start of August and has had the audacity to pinch 38 live Barclays Premier League matches from under Sky's nose, including 18 highly sought-after first picks. 

With a lineup that also includes Aviva Premiership rugby union, FA Cup football, UFC and more, BT Sport could just have what it takes to succeed where Setanta and ESPN failed.

Sky's feathers were suitably ruffled by BT's decision to make the channels available free of charge to all BT broadband customers - so much so that it posted a swift riposte, offering its own broadband service free to Sky Sports subscribers.

It's far too early to say who's going to win this war. But as the companies go head to head, customers are rubbing their hands together at the prospect of better value.

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