BT Vision in VOD Movies Deal with Sony Pictures Television

--BT Vision CEO Says He Expects to Offer Sky Sports Premier League Soccer by 2010

UK incumbent telco BT announced Monday that it has signed an agreement with Sony Pictures Television that will give BT Vision, its Microsoft Mediaroom-powered, interactive TV-enabled hybrid IPTV service (note: the service is enabled via a hybrid set-top box that allows viewers to access linear channels from the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial platform, Freeview, alongside IP-delivered on-demand and interactive content), VOD rights to a range of the latter's new-release and library movies.

Recently released movies that will be available on BT Vision as a result of the new deal include "Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins," starring Christian Bale; "The International," starring Clive Owen; "Seven Pounds," starring Will Smith; and "Angels & Demons," a sequel to "The Da Vinci Code" that stars Tom Hanks. All the movies will be offered on a pay-per-view basis. "We're delighted to reach agreement with Sony Pictures so that we can offer BT Vision customers many exciting films and classic
hits from one of Hollywood's best and most respected studios," Marc Watson, chief executive of television and online services for BT Retail, said in a prepared statement (note: Watson replaced Dan Marks, who stepped down unexpectedly last month, reportedly due to his frustration with UK satellite-TV provider BSkyB's dominance of Premiership soccer coverage, which he blamed for BT Vision's to-date anemic take-up; and also reportedly due to his frustration with the delays in implementing Project Canvas, a joint over-the-top venture between BT, the BBC, and commercial broadcaster ITV, that seeks to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services to broadband-connected set-top boxes--see article published on itvt.com, June 11th). "The addition of Sony Pictures movies to BT Vision is a substantial, high-profile addition to our service. It means we now have long-term deals with all the major studios [note; BT Vision also has VOD deals in place with Disney, Fox, NBC Universal and Warner Bros.]."

According to BT, BT Vision now offers over 600 current and classic films. Customers of the service can purchase its on-demand content on a transactional basis, or can instead opt for various subscription-based programming services. BT touts the fact that the service does not require any upfront subscription.

In other BT Vision news: In an interview with the UK newspaper, The Independent, Marc Watson stated that he expects to launch BSkyB's Sky Sports Premier League soccer programming package on BT Vision by the beginning of the 2010-11 soccer season--and to purchase the package at a lower price than the satellite TV provider currently demands from rival platform operators. Watson's statement was predicated on a recent finding by media regulator, Ofcom, that BSkyB should cut the wholesale prices it charges rival platforms for the Sky Sports Premier League and other premium content packages and channels by up to 30%. "I want to add Sky Sports to our offering, there's no question about that," he told the newspaper. "I would hope to have them by the beginning of season 2010-2011. It would be one of the things that would give us a step change in terms of our proposition. As you can imagine, lots of our customers ask about it, and we'd like to be able to offer it to them...We have a great deal of respect for [BSkyB]," Watson continued, "both in terms of their corporation and their executives, we have very good personal relationships there. I think what we need is a grown-up, commercial, sensible relationship with them, going forward, in which we can sell their products, make them some money and make ourselves some money, too."

According to The Independent, if the Sky soccer programming package were made available to BT Vision in the wholesale price range suggested by Ofcom (between £9.41 and £11.24), the latter service would be able to offer it to consumers for around £15 per month: Sky currently charges subscribers £35.50 per month. Ofcom has postponed a final ruling on the issue until September 18th.

UK/Ireland