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BT Vision Warns No Sky Sports TV Without Superfast Broadband.. Sort of

Friday, June 28th, 2013 (2:26 pm) - Score 12,653

Some customers of the BT Vision TV (IPTV) service could this weekend lose access to the Sky Sports 1 and 2 TV channels unless they have a good standard broadband connection or take the operators superfast BTInfinity (FTTC) service alongside their package.

The concern stems from a letter that was issued at the end of April 2013, which warned that BTVision was planning to change the way it delivered the Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels (these are currently the subject of a big competition complaint here) by sending the content over broadband instead of using the set-top-box’s terrestrial TV aerial receiver.

This in turn also followed an update in February 2013 in which BT advised that “from 22 February 2013 ESPN, Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 add-ons will only be sold to Vision customers who are on or take a BT Infinity package“.

Crucially the April letter appeared to advise customers that the change would affect those who live in an area covered by their superfast broadband BTInfinity service and told users to upgrade to this or risk losing access to the channels. Those who do upgrade would then get the channels back, albeit over their broadband link. This is partly related to the fact that BT will shortly make its rival free BTSport channels available to customers on their digital terrestrial TV service and or broadband.

It’s estimated by The Guardian that around 30,000 of BTVision’s total 810,000+ customer base pay for the Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels and roughly half of those (15k) take the service alongside a BTInfinity connection. So that leaves 15k on the older copper (standard ADSL2+) broadband lines that either don’t want BTInfinity (too expensive etc.) or simply aren’t covered by it.

A BT Support Forum Moderator said (here):

If you have BT Infinity, you’ll be able to get Extra Channels, Sky Sports 1 & 2 and the BT Sport Pack (BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN) on BT Vision+. If you have BT Infinity and YouView, you won’t be able to get Sky Sports.

If you have BT Broadband (copper broadband), you’ll be able to get BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 2 (in SD only), on BT Vision+ over your TV aerial. You’ll need a black Vision+ box and a viewing card. If you don’t already have a viewing card, we’ll provide one for a £10 one-off charge. As a BT broadband customer, you’ll also be able to watch all three BT Sport channels live on the BT Sport App, and online at btsport.com. You won’t be able to get BT Sport, Sky Sports, or Extra Channels on YouView with copper broadband, and Extra Channels, ESPN and Sky Sports 1 & 2 are only available on Vision+ with Infinity.

If you’re in a copper-only area and we’re able to stream your Sky Sports over your broadband (‘Broadband Channels’), you’ll have received a letter in the post letting you know.”

The move effectively forces some customers to upgrade to FTTC but BT has denied that those who don’t live in a BTInfinity area will lose the service. BT said that it has developed a “new technology to stream Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 over [slower] copper broadband”.

However BT also confirmed that “a minority of customers who do not have a fast enough copper broadband connection, will lose Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 this summer” and will instead be given six months free broadband and free BTSport.

ISPreview.co.uk notes that the related BT Sport App (video streaming) and btsport.com use adaptive bitrate technology to provide a “good viewing experience” over a variety of internet connections but even this requires a minimum speed of 400Kbps (0.4Mbps) and sadly there are still some that would fall outside of this.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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22 Responses
  1. DTMark says:

    I thought that BT only supplied the Vision boxes to people who could only get 2Mbps anyway (at the time about 85% of potential subscribers), so this issue should not exist..

    1. Roberto says:

      That is a very good point Mark, i wonder how that has occured if you supposedly have to have 2Mb before you can even have BT Vision.

      I also laughed at the “BT said that it has developed a “new technology to stream Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 over [slower] copper broadband”. Statement. Or real life statement… mono sound, blocky mess.

      I suspect this is nothing more than an attempt to flog FTTC which only a very small percentage of BTs 6 Million customers still seem to take. Last figures i saw mentioned were something like 600,000 a few months back or only around 10% of their broadband customer base.

    2. DTMark says:

      It really doesn’t compute, does it. Sky and Virgin Media must be in hysterics here, BT have a habit of heavy-handed sharkish behaviour like this.

      Good opportunity for people to cancel the BT Vision thing altogether at no cost, modify their contract, negotiate a free Infinity upgrade and so on.

      You’d have thought most companies would fess up to having rolled out something they couldn’t really deliver on anyway (the expression “walk before you can run” springs to mind here) and graciously offer the upgrade free of charge anyway to what should be a tiny minority of customers, instead of electing to breach their contract to supply and hack off their fledgling TV customer base in the process.

    3. MikeW says:

      Your figures must be near a year out of date.

      At end-of-year results in April, BT Retail had 6.7m broadband customers, where 1.3m were on fibre, and had added 211k in Q4. By now, it is probably around 20% of the customer base on fibre.

      At the same time, Openreach had passed 15m premises, and connected 1.5m, of which 270k were added in Q4. The total UK broadband take-up is probably around 10% by now.

    4. Roberto says:

      Yes forgive me……

      6,704,000 broadband customers
      1,300,000 on a Fibre product

      So that is actually just under 19.5% that have a fibre product from them, or less than a fifth of the customer base.

      So my end conclusion is the same… nothing more than an attempt to flog FTTC which only a very small percentage of BTs 6 Million customers still seem to take.

    5. Roberto says:

      @DTMark and “Good opportunity for people to cancel the BT Vision thing altogether at no cost, modify their contract, negotiate a free Infinity upgrade and so on.”

      Indeed a significant change in terms of a product that you signed up for means you can legally cancel, though BT wont like it and will try to convince people they have no rights. The smart people will obviously either tell them to get lost or negotiate a better price.

      BT fans will obviously still think its a bargain and 6 months free broadband is fair “compensation”. All for a box you got to get sports channels you no longer have, still have to pay a monthly fee for, had to pay activation charges for. But what do i know my logic according to one of those types and maths is flawed. I suspect if it were Sky or Virgin though they would amazingly agree with my flawed logic LMAO

    6. MikeW says:

      Not that Sky haven’t done anything similar in their history.

      Oh no, they certainly didn’t swap to digital, and make all those analog boxes that subscribers bought obsolete and unusable. And no, they didn’t make the BSB boxes obsolete either.

      And we’d better not mention the pains that the various regional cable companies have gone through en-route to becoming VM. No changes in service there at all.

      The one thing we can guarantee is that *every* company makes changes when their offering starts to become uneconomic or uncompetitive. And that, while some subscribers embrace the change willingly, some of their subscribers will be forced into an unwanted change.

      BT haters seem to enjoy glossing over history.

    7. Roberto says:

      If you had a subscription from sky when they switched from analog to digital they supplied you with a new digital box. You also got a new mini-dish if you had originally bought your analog dish from an authorised sky agent. You even had your viewing card replaced for free.

      The original BSB aka British Satellite Broadcasting (I assume you are talking about the old square satellites) had nothing to do with sky initially and failed due to it being an over complicated system which did not even use PAL for its reception. Picture and sound quality was very good for its time (sound was actually digital and a first), but just like the VHS vs Beta battle years before it, what was technically better does not always win. Sky also beat them to market with their system which had several months head start so it is no wonder it was doomed to failure.

      Sky later entered a merger with British Satellite Broadcasting and became BSkyB (do not confuse the two). The original owners of BSB no longer wanted to spend money on the system and later sold outright to Sky. Sky then had a choice hemorrhage money maintaining two different satellite systems which at the time you must remember only delivered 5 extra channels, or proceed and develop their own system. They obviously choose to develop their own system and the satellites. Leading to what we have to day which is undoubtedly the most popular pay TV system in the UK.

      The two satellites that delivered BSB via a square dish were later sold to a Norweigen company their orbit was later moved and it was used for satellite phone communications until 2003, when the satellite reached the end of its lifespan.

      “BT haters seem to enjoy glossing over history.”

      On the contrary thats the actual history of the BSB thing you randomly had a rant about LMAO.

    8. DTMark says:

      BT’s business model and issues are rather irrelevant.

      If a customer was attracted to the service because of a particular key feature like the availability of certain channels, and now, in contract, cannot receive them, then it’s up to the supplier to sort it out.

      Which means a free upgrade if need be, or compensation otherwise as agreed with the customer (not stipulated by the supplier as suits them).

      BT can hardly claim that the availability of certain sports channels is not a key feature and have this as part of their core strategy for the platform at the same time.

  2. ben says:

    BTV is never going to be a force in tv till there happy to provide the service to more customers. Nearly 100% of the Uk can have a dish and SS1/2. Whats Infinity coverage? nowhere near 100%. BT need to make inroads and fast to justify the launch of their channel. Idiots in charge !

  3. telecom engineer says:

    I have seen the copper only multicast in action ages ago, the picture quality was too high. On a 4 meg connection the picture quality was flawless even on huge panels / displays. I did comment that they should put adaptive rate or lower the quality to expand userbase potential. Seems they pushed ahead with fttc multicast first. They have made the right decision though regarding pushing btsport over freeview at the cost of sky sports. Most who want sky will be using their platform anyway. Ofcourse we would be far more advanced re sky channels over iptv if sky were not being actively allowed to abuse their monopoly. How would ofcom react if bt said no sky llu unless you make all sky sports available to bttv on different terms to talk talk and virgin….

    1. Roberto says:

      Sorry but if you think any content with a bitrate/connection speed of 4Mb is “flawless” on a “huge” panel you need an eye test.

      To put a MAX of 4Mb stream in comparison…

      A bluray as a comparison can have a max bitrate of 40Mbps or in other words 10x more than that 4Mb.

      A freeview HD stream from say BBC One HD can be 1080p and around an average of 10Mb (its a variable bitrate stream from 6Mb to about 15Mb currently) or around 2.5x more than that 4Mb.

      A 4Mb stream on fast moving action (like a end to end football match) will look absolutely dire on a 60inch screen with significant blocking to the picture. Other detailed content like say a close up of a goal net or tennis net will exhibit what is called a mosquito compression artifacts also. Even more so if this is in SD resolution.

      Single digit streams much like you get from Netflix, ITV player and other streaming services including BT can look fine on a computer monitor or average 32inch TV, which to be fair is what most of the population are probably watching on.

      On anything like a decent 50-70inch screen though it all looks a washed out blur ridden mess compared to REAL DECENT content.

    2. MikeW says:

      I’m pretty sure I’ve seen copper multicast as available on a DSL checker result recently, in addition to the fibre multicast. Can’t remember where that was though, but it definitely surprised me.

      And whether the content looks good at low bitrates, surely it depends on the compression protocol being used. Mark’s article on H.265 compression indicated it worked at half the bit-rate of H.264, and stated that 1080p was available at 3Mbps, for example. Probably not fast sports action, mind you.

      Of course, what you can see in the labs is far advanced from what we get, post-standardisation, in the real world. It takes a while to get out to joe public.

  4. telecom engineer says:

    Ok let me qualify that for you. It seemed as good as high quality iplayer, i saw it including a 70 inch projection and didnt see artifacts such as seen on sd sky sports. To be fair though I wasnt watching football on the bt setup just normal tv, however the quality was far superior to the standard on demand content and id wager freeview transmission. It was more than good enough. Iam coming from expecting netflix style experiance and being impressed, those who expect 8k resolutions and claim anything less than 10gig/s bitrates looks like black and white in their eyes may find fault. The main arguement, and once you see the service for yourself may agree, is that the quality is superb considering the line speed and they could get aeay with a reduction in quality for slower lines increasing coverage.

    1. Roberto says:

      There are currently no hardware H.265 boxes in retail channels i know of, expect them to become common place around 2015-16.

      Compression does enter the equation, the problem is no matter how good the algorithm is if the content is not of a high standard in the first place then no matter what compression is being used the quality will be even worse. BTs HD channels are already re-encoded/compressed and broadcast in a different format to that of the original broadcast from sky. Encoding it further especially down to single bitrate Mb figures will just make it worse no matter what you do. So often the problems with stuff like Skygo, BT internet streams, iplayer, itv player etc etc etc is they compress it down to an almost “one encode suits all devices” approach.

      Half the problem is like any modern day term things get used too loosely. Youtube has so called 1080p content but to me that at times can even look garbage. Again depend on what the content was filmed on or encoded with in the beginning.

      @telecom engineer
      If it was as good as iplayer that sounds about right, most iplayer content the video stream is around 2Mb for SD stuff and tops out around 5Mb for HD stuff (most of it is a variable bitrate of around 3Mb for HD content). Visually ALL OF IT on iplayer is probably similar to a GOOD SD stream on Sky or the freeview platform. Technically its slightly lower quality wise.

      Picture for most that are happy with SD TV content it will be good enough for. I suspect where a lot of the quality is reduce to fit into a 2-5Mb stream will be with regards to the sound (at least for Sky Sports HD channels). You probably will not be getting 5.1 dolby from the stream (if it is delivering 5.1 its probably at something like 192k rather than the regularly used 384 or 448k) and instead you get something like 64k stereo (mono if really unlucky).

      Again not a real issue for those that just watch through a normal TV with stereo speakers, but for a decent home system it will sound rubbish also.

      Maybe i was harsh, streams like this are “watchable” be them from BT, iplayer or similar services, but they are hardly “flawless” which was what i was biting on more from your post. I certainly would sooner have it than not have it.

      I could rant all day about so called “Internet delivered content” though. In fact it is not just a bash at BT in that regard as someone else probably thinks.

      I believe nearly every company involved in such content does not deliver it in enough format choice for the consumer. The internet in this country varies too much in speed to have a one size fits all solution. A person in one street can have 80Mb while a couple of streets away some poor sap can only get 2Mb max.

      It is also frankly ridiculous to have an SD stream which may be say 2Mb and then they have the nerve to call another stream “High quality” or HD and its only another 1-2Mb higher in bitrate. (they all seem to play that game).

      An example being the other end of the spectrum, i myself am an infinity subscriber with speeds near to 70Mb, come august when BT sports launches i bet their “app” and “online” options though will be sending me a 5Mb (if lucky) stream. I doubt we will have an choice to max a connection or only let it sip a few kilobits if truly mobile.

      BT like Sky, and the movie industry then wonder why someone goes and finds illegal content online that is a 10Mbps video stream with DTS sound LOL

      Quality of such content was not a direct bash at BT but any system like this in general more than anything.

    2. MikeW says:


      TelecomEngineer didn’t say he’d seen a retail box, nor did he say what the original source of the content was – whether it was encoded from something that had been decoded from a previous encoding.

      From his comment that it was seen on copper multicast ages ago, my guess is that it was as a technology demonstrator – where they want to show the best possibilities, not a hashed version.

      On the rest, you’re right. So much stuff is sent out at “lowest common denominator” speeds.

    3. Robert says:

      “TelecomEngineer didn’t say he’d seen a retail box….”

      I did not assume in any of my reply to him that he had.

    4. DTMark says:

      On the 43″ Panasonic TV that we have…

      2Mbps streaming looks fairly appalling.
      4.5Mbps “HDTV” streaming is similar to HDTV and is acceptable. *
      3.5Mbps streaming is fair to good. **

      That’s for TV and movies, I don’t really watch sport.

      For fast moving action where detail is needed, I’d have said 6Meg is about the minimum speed needed.

      Of course we don’t all have great big modern TVs, but technology moves on rapidly.

      * This is what Acetrax streams at, or should I say, streamed at since it’s gone now.
      ** This is what I calculated Netflix (continously adaptive) streams at.

    5. telecom engineer says:

      I cant state what the technical differences were but the kit was similar to retail setup albiet modified softwares and additional units connected to stb. Content was broadcast tv, however selection was limited as content was agreed with the stations.. so that being said and with so much tv going through bt tower i couldnt fathom at what stage it was encoded but as it was realtime so i doubt it was a reencoded freeview, but I am not privvy to such info. What I saw gave technical demonstration of linear iptv and recording functions. HD gave only a still image but worked fine on the fibre demo. Come to think of it several codecs may have been in use as the same channels were repeated with various markers overlaid.
      Still awaiting my bt linear tv to be activated so will be able to test thoroughly and compare to what they had previous.

    6. Roberto says:

      Sounds like it was an interesting demonstration telecom engineer 🙂 A shame you could not prise technical details out of them to compare to some of the services we have today.

      I many, many years ago saw a telewest demonstration of digital way before it entered the mainstream and various (at the time) new encryption methods they could employ with it. That was very short also on technical details, i do remember thinking wow it looks like a dvd and being impressed.

      It would take 10 seconds or so when switching to other content/channels before it would display any content. I think the system at the time was totally scrapped and they eventually went with a whole new system which was developed sometime between that demo and the time they started to offer a serious selection of channels.

      It was interesting to see and you do feel quite special when you see things like that, of course nowadays anything like that which takes place we all know about due to the internet… Oh god i feel old now.

  5. Roberto says:

    http://www.vudu.com/ and their stuff which is called HDX in quality is probably the best streaming service i have seen. That content in general has a MINIMAL bitrate of around 5Mb and can top out around 8Mb. You will need a good connection for it to never buffer. It looks better than a DVD on a big screen but obviously not as good as bluray. Compared to all other streaming content ive seen it looks gorgeous, you rarely except in prolonged scenes which have a fixed background colour or intense light on dark (person with a torch in a dark room as an example) see any macro blocking at all. Even then compared to netflix its very minimal.

    Content is not the cheapest though and officially i do not think you can get the service in the UK.

    1. telecom engineer says:

      Well lucky me I got a peek at the latest multicast (copper) since last posting. From what I have seen bitrate is variable around 4meg for sd, sound around 300k. HD again variable but around 9 meg for ordinary content. HD will not work over copper even if the line is capable. Interestingly enough the number of streams active is not restricted by the service, just the box (seen four sd at once) so the stb is only limiting to two, so maybe multiroom in future? There is a one second delay to allow retransmission of dropped packets. Stringent new tests have been implemented for iptv faulting but only a handful of bods are doing it as faultrates are expected to be minimal / down to other standard issues i.e. dsl fault.
      Only seen on 21inch this time but quality is vgood.

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