BT DTT to IP migration speeds up

(updated) BT has begun withdrawing access to BT Sport via terrestrial TV to viewers with fast enough non-fibre broadband connections.

Affected viewers will now see BT Sport 1 and 2 delivered via their broadband connection, which will also give them access to ESPN, which hasn't been available on terrestrial TV since 2013.

There had been reports that viewers had begun receiving letters about the changes. BT has now clarified the situation. Earlier this year, the option to move to broadband delivery was voluntary for subscribers who had non-fibre broadband connections. Now though, the move will be mandatory or "automatic" as BT puts it, as the telecoms giant finalises plans to completely migrate its delivery of the BT Sport pay TV channels off the terrestrial TV platform. The cost of delivering this service via terrestrial, broadcasting a signal alongside other Freeview channels, is understood to cost several million pounds each year, with ever fewer subscribers allowed to access the terrestrial signal.

Since its launch in August 2013, BT Sport has only been available via terrestrial on channels 58 and 59 to subscribers who aren't in the coverage area of BT's Infinity fibre broadband product, which now reaches 68% coverage, according to the most recent marketing information. As standard Freeview boxes aren't compatible with the service on channels 58 and 59, BT operated a special barker channel - back then on channel 57 - to give Freeview viewers a sample of BT Sport 1 during special evenings and weekends in August and October 2013.

The terrestrial reception option was closed to new subscribers earlier in 2014. The subsequent closure of its oldest Vision TV platform and its migration of normal broadband subscribers with more than 5 Meg connections makes the distribution of its channels via terrestrial TV to the remaining few increasingly expensive. Those remaining with terrestrial TV distribution have broadband speeds of 2-5 Mbps - 2 Mbps was the minimum requirement for the pre-YouView BT Vision service.

With Sky managing to stream Sky Sports via NOW TV on a 2.5 Mbps connection, it's only a matter of time before migration can fully complete.

Additional capacity on digital terrestrial TV, available to either free or conditional access channels (pay TV), was advertised to interested broadcasters in August. According to the advert, the capacity will be available from mid-November. This fueled speculation that BT could be about ready to hand over its terrestrial capacity, as other capacity on Freeview has recently been filled by new channels. BT have since denied any such move, stating that the aerial based service will continue for those who need it.

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