Blog Post

BT Vision Chief: ‘We Will Miss Three Million Subscriptions Target’

BT’s IPTV service BT (NYSE: BT) Vision has no chance of hitting its target of two to three million subscriptions by December 2010, according to Vision CEO Marc Watson. He admits to FT.com that the target, set by BT CEO Ian Livingstone, won’t be reached “over that time” and says “We have not yet found the best way of explaining what the benefits are to consumers, and what [BT Vision] stands for.”

Vision has 433,000 customers and Watson says one million is a more realistic goal, though doesn’t give a deadline. He reveals the service will, from next year, be available “bundled” in with BT broadband and fixed line phone deals, as Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) and BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) TV subscriptions are, although broadband customers are already regularly asked if they’d like the service. Orange France has met with success through its integrated web, TV, phone and mobile deals and has more than 2.2 million customers.

But BT doesn’t think it’s entirely to blame for Vision’s shortcomings: Watson repeats his assertion that not having access to Sky’s premium content is costing it dearly. Ofcom launched a consultation on June, prompted largely by protests from Sky rivals including BT, to investigate whether Sky should lower its subscription fees and offer rivals access to content like live Premier League matches much cheaper than it does now. Unsurprisingly, Sky is strongly resisting any attempts by Ofcom to set its prices for it.

Meanwhile BT’s involvement in the BBC-convened Project Canvas open platform IPTV initiative is going ahead as planned: boxes should be in shops before Christmas 2010 and Watson expects it to cause an upturn in Vision subscriptions. “When you look at the early marketplace, I think a lot of customers will take their box and a service from us because we will subsidise it,” he says.