Saracens wait to see BT's vision of the future

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The Independent Online

Saracens are keeping an open mind as they prepare for the visit on Thursday of BT Vision, which will unveil its plans for covering rugby union from the Premiership.

BT, already involved in football, have signed a £152m deal for the exclusive UK rights to Aviva Premiership games, currently broadcast by rivals ESPN and BSkyB. The deal will see up to 69 live Aviva Premiership matches per season shown exclusively by BT Vision, when the telecoms company will also begin broadcasting live Premier League football for the first time.

BT Vision is doing the rounds of the Premiership clubs, explaining their coverage requirements – which include filming in dressing rooms, new camera angles and various radical technical innovations including teams revealing elements of their gameplan to TV commentators, players being filmed in training or as they enter the sin bin, all of which were revealed in yesterday's Independent on Sunday.

A Saracens spokesman said: "When ESPN first appeared on the scene, they came to see us and explained their plans and sought our views before anything was agreed.

"BT Vision will meet with our chief executive Edward Griffiths and other club officials on Thursday, when we'll discover how they want to cover games. It would be foolish to second-guess the situation until we know what's on the table."

A BT spokesman said: "It's an opportunity to explore new innovative formats. Whilst it's too early to go into any more detail, BT Sport intends to bring the very best coverage to a world class game."

Under the deal with Premership Rugby, the umbrella organisation of the Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs, BT will also have live broadcast rights to the JP Morgan Asset Management Sevens from 2013-14, and European games featuring Aviva Premiership clubs from 2014-15.

Rugby is seen as a support player in BT's battle for subscribers after they paid £738m to show Premier League football. ESPN signed a three-year deal in 2010 with the Aviva Premiership for the rights forfeited by Irish broadcaster Setanta, and have been sharing coverage with BskyB. It's believed they tried to renegotiate a lower price only to be caught off-guard by BT's offer.

ESPN charge a monthly subscription to Sky viewers, but viewing figures for their live rugby including the Premiership final each May have mostly been below 100,000.