BT kicks off new season with Sky Sports

Telecoms giant BT will offer customers of its internet television service access to rival BSkyB's sports channels in time for the new English Premier League season, it said yesterday.

BSkyB was ordered by the telecoms regulator Ofcom in March to cut the prices it charges competitors to air its sports channels, loosening BSkyB's grip on premium programming and potentially sparking a price war.

BT said it would announce pricing for its BT Vision customers soon. It said customers could sign up from early July and begin viewing Sky Sports 1 and 2 from 1 August ahead of the season's 14 August start.

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BSkyB is appealing against the ruling. The 20 per cent difference between its original wholesale prices and the new prices is being held in an escrow account to be released to either BSkyB or its rivals once the appeal is decided.

The satellite broadcaster already sells its channels to customers of Virgin Media, but the cable operator says the rates are so high it is unable to make a profit from the agreement.

BSkyB, which largely built its business on the back of Premier League and Champions League, is the largest operator in the pay-TV market, with about 10 million users.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is a major shareholder in BSkyB and wants to buy the rest of the company for about $12 billion (8bn). The two companies are seeking regulatory approval, but have not yet been able to agree on price.