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BT signs sports channels contract with BSkyB

BT will offer more live Premier League football next season after it signed a contract with BSkyB for the supply of two Sky Sports channels.

The deal follows the communications regulator's ruling that BSkyB must sell its premium sports content to rivals at regulated prices.

BT said its on-demand digital television customers would be able to view the subscription channels Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 from August 1, in time for the new football season.

The price to BT Vision customers will be announced in the next few days, but BT has already pledged to undercut its rival by pricing a package featuring the two Sky channels and the ESPN sports channel - which also covers Premier League football - at less than £20 a month.

The telecoms company currently has 467,000 BT Vision subscribers.

BSkyB is taking legal action over the Ofcom ruling although in the meantime it has agreed to sell the channels at the price it currently charges Virgin Media, its only wholesale customer.

The difference between this and the recommended Ofcom price will be held in a special account until the outcome of the full hearing of BSkyB's appeal.

Consumer groups have said Ofcom's intervention meant more choice and lower prices for viewers, but sporting bodies reacted furiously to the potential cut in funding.

Ofcom's announcement followed a three-year investigation into the industry after concerns were raised by BT, Virgin Media, TopUp TV and Setanta, which has since gone bust.

Ofcom recommended a wholesale price of £10.63 per subscriber per month for each of Sky Sports 1 and 2 when sold on a stand-alone basis, 23.4% below the current wholesale price to cable operators.

Most consumers currently buy packages which include Sky Sports 1 and 2 and the wholesale price for this service bundle should be reduced by 10.5% to £17.14, Ofcom said.