Whether or not BT Sport sharing exclusive TV rights to the FA Cup with the Beeb is enough to tempt Sky Sports customers is debatable, but most football fans are unlikely to be sad about saying ‘so long’ to ITV’s coverage…
BT Sport will share television coverage of the FA Cup with the BBC for four years starting from next year.
BT's new group of sports channels already had the rights to show live matches from the oldest association football competition in the world, alongside ITV, this coming season.
However, under a new deal BT Sport, with coverage led by Jake Humphrey and Michael Owen, and the Beeb, with Gary Lineker the anchor as ever, will have exclusive rights to FA Cup coverage from the 2014-2015 season until the 2017-2018 season.
Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT Retail, said: "BT Sport made a determined joint bid to retain the FA Cup rights because we believe it is one of the truly great club football competitions.
"We are thrilled to bring our viewers the incredible stories of passion, and victories against all the odds that pepper the history of the competition.
"These include Leeds United being humbled by second division Sunderland in the 1973 final, right up to May this year, when unfancied Wigan Athletic defeated Manchester City at Wembley."
You correspondent is grateful his beloved Norwich City's humbling at home to Luton Town earlier this year, when the latter became the first non-league team to knock a top-flight side out of the FA Cup since 1989, was not mentioned...
Patterson believes FA Cup coverage on BT Sport will reach an audience befitting a competition where the final is classed as a 'crown jewel' sporting event that cannot be shown exclusively on pay TV in the UK.
This is because BT Sport is available to all BT broadband customers via BTSport.com and BT Sport App at no extra cost, and to BT TV customers via BT Vision+ and YouView from BT set-top box, again at no extra cost.
Whether this has Sky, the dominant sports TV provider in the UK, worried remains to be seen; the Guardian reported yesterday that the managing director of Sky Sports sees the exclusive live Premier League coverage offered by BT Sport as no greater threat than that offered by ESPN and Setanta in the past.
With ESPN - which is now a BT Sport channel in the UK and Ireland - and ITV offering exclusive live coverage of the FA Cup last season, and Setanta having done so before its demise in 2009, you can see Sky's point.
However the battle between BT Sport and Sky Sports for punters' affections plays out, football supporters in general are likely to be delighted that, from next year, for the first time since 2008, live FA Cup football on TV will no longer be served up with a side order of ITV's much-maligned coverage...
Will BT Sport showing live FA Cup football for the next four years tempt you to subscribe? Let us know in the comments section below.
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