BT Sport vow to go head-to-head with Sky Sports after saving back top picks for the Premier League

The first round of fixtures to be shown on TV was announced yesterday

BT Sport is promising to go head-to-head with Sky Sports in a battle of the broadcasters throughout the new Barclays Premier League season.

The two companies published the first tranche of fixtures to be screened live yesterday, with Sky trumpeting a strong start to the campaign which will see it screen David Moyes' first game as Manchester United boss, Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge and Manuel Pellegrini's bow at Manchester City on the opening weekend.

However, BT, which launches its coverage at Anfield, where Liverpool take on Stoke in the first of the opening day fixtures on Saturday, August 17, is confident it will provide big games through the season having used only five of its 18 top picks to date.

Marc Watson, chief executive of BT TV, said: "We have got more [top picks] than them in the final two-thirds of the season.

"We have looked with interest at the amount they seem to be focused on us - and they are very, very focused on us, or they seem to be - and we appreciate the publicity, you know.

"But we are very focused on making our channels a success, providing good channels and doing a good job of selling them during the course of the season and building them over the season.

"When we look at this season, we think this could be one of the most competitive seasons in years. It's a very, very exciting season when you look at the clubs that are going to be competing, the changes in management and players coming in.

"It's a very exciting season. It isn't over in the first four weeks, it's going to be a season that runs all the way through and we wanted to make sure we could offer really strong games throughout the season."

BT will broadcast 38 Premier League games, while Sky will show 43 by December 1.

However, the newcomer insists it is here to stay.

Watson said: "BT is a British business, this is our home market. We don't do things lightly, we think very carefully about things before we do them and when we do them, we stay committed to them and we make them work.

"This is very much part of a long-term strategy. We are in this for the long-term, no question.

"I know our friends at Sky are very focused on the first couple of weeks, but we are looking a bit beyond that."

Sky managing director Barney Francis was bullish too about his company's prospects as it prepares to welcome its latest competitor to the market.

He said: "There's been a lot of noise out there and the truth is it's actually made no difference to our football schedule.

"Now people can look at the fixtures in black and white and see what they are going to see on Sky Sports and feel that nothing is going to change.

"We are providing people with what they expect to see on Sky Sports."

PA

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