Opinion

BT Abandons Broadband Customers in NOW TV Roll Out


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Despite all the fanfare of BT’s introduction of Sky‘s channels on its BT TV platform through NOW TV, over 4 million of it’s customers have been left out by the company.

BT’s re-cast of it’s television offering introduces an “all-in-one” subscription solution for its fibre customers, giving access to NOW TV’s linear channels such as Sky Sports, and on-demand library.

That, however is where the move by BT can only be seen as a cynical ploy by the telecommunications conglomerate to move more customers from its normal broadband offering, over to its generally more expensive fibre product.

The issue is that over 4 Million broadband customers are not fibre customers, and a proportion of those are not in areas currently able to recieve fibre broadband services.

For those 4 Million broadband customers, if they attempt to purchase BT TV’s “Big Sports Pack”, which includes the BT Sports channels and now also Sky Sports full bouquet of channels, they are greeted with a message stating that they must have fibre to order it – this despite an on-screen message on the linear Sky Sports channels saying “call now to upgrade”.

That comes as a shock to me, considering that those customers being denied access to the Sky Sports linear bouquet of channels CAN recieve the BT Sports channels which are delivered as “multicast” streams – or in other words via the internet and not fibre specific. It will not come as a shock that it is in exactly this way that the Sky Sports streams are delivered.

So that leads me to thinking, if BT can deliver its BT Sport offering in a multicast manner, there is absolutely no technical reason why the NOW TV offering can’t be delivered in the same way.

What is more interesting, is that NOW TV, including the Sky Sports linear channels, can easily be recieved through a non-fibre BT Broadband connection by subscribing directly to NOW TV and using a NOW TV device or smart TV app. In fact, to add insult to injury for BT TV customers who only have a “standard” broadband connection, they can recieve the channels through an app actually available on BT TV – but, you guessed it, it costs considerably more for the same thing.

Clearly, something isn’t right here, infact it is downright fishy.

I have therefore asked BT six questions on this very subject, which are;

1) Why is it that a BT Broadband connection is suitably fast enough for your own subscription IPTV products (BT Sport, AMC), but not for third-party subscription IPTV products (NOW TV)?
2) Why is it that other streaming products delivering high quality, high bandwidth outputs are accessible and operational on the service (Netflix, Amazon), when a 720p @50fps live stream is delivered at a lower bandwidth than a 1080p on-demand stream?
3) Why is it that on a BT Broadband connection that BT defines as “not fast enough”, those same services can be received issue free via competing products?
4) Why is it that a NOW TV Sky Sports month pass via a USB stick will work perfectly fine in this scenario, but is not available via a BT TV subscription?
5) How can BT judge that “the line speed at your address isn’t fast enough” when all technical analysis shows that to be incorrect? How many customers are being misled in this way?
6) Will BT TV subscribers be offered the ability to subscribe to the “Big Sport” package and access their Sky Sports streams via a working method of receiving NOW TV streams, such as a smart-stick? In other words will BT TV subscribers be able to log into NOW TV services with their BT TV account details, the same as they can with the BT Sport streaming app?

BT did offer a response to some of the above points that I raised.

Commenting on why the new packages were only available to their fibre customers, BT said; “We’ve set the minimum line speed for many of our new flexible packages to be on our Fibre plans – this is to ensure a great customer experience on all of the services that are in the packs including 4K and UHD content.”

Obviously, BT aren’t at all concerned about the “great customer experience” for their BT Sport viewers who have standard BT Broadband then.

A BT spokesperson went on to try to justify the move, and in turn proving my entire argument, by confirming that standard BT Broadband customers could access the NOW TV channels through the app, just at higher prices than their fibre counterparts.

He said; “For customers on Standard Broadband, we are offering new flexible packages including Essential and Sport which customers can add standalone services to including access to all NOW TV bold-ons including Sky Sports, Entertainment and Cinema. These are all flexible on 30 day contracts allowing customers to add, swap and remove.”

So if proof were ever needed, BT’s attitude is, “if you don’t subscribe to our fibre product, you’re not going to get the best deals”.

I’m not holding out any hope in fact that, as someone in a household that subscribes to BT TV and BT Broadband but not currently in a fibre area, BT will actually change their tack here. I’m also quite concerned that a BT spokesperson led their response saying; “We’re connecting more customers than ever to Fibre – upgrading 700k to fibre at no extra cost by this summer.

“This means more customers than ever will have access to super-fast connections at the same prices as standard broadband – this covers the vast majority of the UK with fewer than 1m homes having access to standard broadband only, and we’re connecting more homes all the time.”

BT are making promises on the strength of the actions of a third party. Notably in this instance, BT relies on the Openreach network – a separate company, to make those connections that BT wishes to take advantage of.

So, without any quantifiable reasoning to the contrary, the only way I can surmise BT’s actions here, is that it is purposely disadvantaging a huge swathe of its customer base – many of whom are unlikely to receive a fibre connection in the near future.

The simple truth is: if, as BT have said, it is in the interests of quality, BT Sport & AMC amongst others that are currently available to non-fibre subscribers, would not be available to non-fibre subscribers.

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