BT announces free-to-air sports coverage for March

BT is to screen a title-chasing clash between Northampton Saints and Harlequins on free-to-air channel BT Sport Showcase this Easter, in the latest free TV outing for the Aviva Rugby Premiership.

Coverage of the match from Franklin's Gardens will start at 3pm on Easter Sunday, 27th March on Freeview channel 59.

Ahead of that, BT is also screening two European football fixtures this week, with Champions League action between Real Madrid and AS Roma tonight from 7pm (kick off 7:45) and Athletic Bilbao v Valencia from the Europa League on Thursday 10th (kick off 8:05). No British teams will feature in the free-to-air coverage, but will be available via BT's pay TV sport channels.

Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said:
“Freeview viewers will once again be able to see UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches with some of the best players in the world on show. We are also delighted to broadcast Aviva Premiership Rugby on BT Sport Showcase. All are heading towards the end of the season and are fighting it out with the hope of lifting silverware at the end of the season.
It’s great to be able to give Freeview viewers the opportunity to experience BT Sport’s exclusively live coverage on BT Sport Showcase.”

Update: There will be extra coverage of the Europa League on 17/03/16: Sevilla v Basel - live from 8:05pm.

Free-to-air coverage "Flop"
Meanwhile, the pay TV giant has been criticised for the poor profile it has been giving European football, which has to provide free-to-air coverage as part of its rights deal with UEFA Last month, The Daily Telegraph branded the free-to-air channel BT Showcase "a complete flop", citing dismal viewing figures. It reported that UEFA and sponsors are concerned about the poor free-to-air ratings this season. BT said it was "unfair" to compare ITV's ratings with BT Showcase, although BT Showcase has a much lower reach than ITV.

Since BT took over coverage, fixtures are routinely announced after printed TV listings deadlines. Electronic Programme Guides are often updated at the last minute: Freeview's EPG was only updated yesterday, less than 48 hours ahead of tonight's Champions League coverage, with the associated press release dated yesterday morning, but in fact only delivered this morning. BT Sport's own football coverage page sometimes includes BT Showcase fixtures, but often omits them.

Virgin users, who can see free coverage on their own special BT channel, were informed of this week's fixtures on their EPGs during the course of last week.

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