BT has stepped up its battle against BSkyB by adding Premiership rugby to top-flight football on its forthcoming sports channel.
In one of the biggest broadcast deals in the history of club rugby, BT has the rights to show Aviva Premiership games from the 2013-14 season, in a four-year deal worth £152m.
In an attempt to attract subscribers from BSkyB and Virgin Media, BT is expected to sign further deals for the right to broadcast additional sports later this year to build a competitive sports channel offering.
The rugby deal, which current rights-holders BSkyB and ESPN are thought to have considered overpriced, comes after BT forked out £738m to gain a 38-game- a-season foothold on Premier League football coverage.
Marc Watson, chief executive of television service BT Vision, said: “BT is serious about sport and this deal means we will be offering the very best rugby action alongside some of the most thrilling football matches from the Premier League.”
The agreement covers exclusive live broadcast rights to up to 69 rugby matches per season at a time when the Rugby World Cup is due to be staged in England, in 2015, as well as rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
BT will launch its sport channel through BT Vision which will offer new interactive features.