BT Sport announces price freeze

Steady: BT Sport will not restructure its prices when the new business rates come into effect

BT Sport will not raise the prices of its subscription packages when the new business rates are announced in April, the broadcaster has confirmed.

Both BT Sport and Sky Sports take business rates into account when pricing their subscription packages, meaning pubs could have ended up paying more for BT in April once the rate changes are announced.

The model has provoked panic among many licensees, who are already preparing to take a big financial hit in the spring.

BT Sport, however, has allayed fears that publicans will have to pay more for their services from April and said it would not immediately restructure prices in line with the new rates.

It said licensees will pay the same for BT's coverage as they do now when the new rates take effect.

BT Sport took the decision to freeze its prices after meeting with trade bodies, said director of commercial customers Bruce Cuthbert.

He added: "It is clear that with additional cost pressure from increases in the national living wage, combined with growing price inflation, it seemed common sense to wait for the dust to settle before finalising any new pricing structure.

"It will have been seven years since the business rates were last updated and with a number of changes being introduced, including new transitional arrangements and the overall appeals process, now is not the time to make any changes."

Sky Sports is yet to reveal whether it will restructure its prices around the new rates.

'Welcome news'

BT's decision has been welcomed by some operators, with many hailing it a blessing.

Mikey Fitzsimmons, licensee at the Faltering Fullback in Finsbury Park, north London, said: "Rates are going up massively so it's a big help to hear that the prices will be remaining steady."

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said the decision would bring "some stability" to pubs.

The head of the trade body added: "This is welcome news for a significant number of publicans, that would have seen some big increases because of the rates revaluation.

"Live sport has become very important to pubs, many of which are small, local businesses. Overall, I remain concerned that pubs’ bills for live sport are a major cost, and this will bring some stability."

No rise and no reduction

However, the price freeze does mean pubs expecting a reduction in their business rates will not see their BT Sport bills lowered.

Phil Cutter, licensee of the Gardeners Arms in Norwich, will benefit from lower business rates from April, but will pay the same amount for BT Sport's coverage.

The winner of 2015's Great British Pub Award for Best Sports Pub told the Morning Advertiser that "for many publicans, rateable values have actually changed for the better".

He added: "We pay the highest band for coverage, but our rateable value is due to drop and I calculated that that would result in a reduction in costs for sport coverage.

"To be told only a month before the new values take effect [that our sport costs will not go down] is not fair."

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