When BT finally announced how much it would charge customers to access its new European football channel, Virgin Media remained quiet on whether those overheads would be passed onto customers. The cable broadcaster has offered BT Sport's original two channels for no additional cost as part of its TV XL packages, but from September 1st, subscribers will be asked to pay £3 a month extra even if they don't want to watch Champions League matches.
Virgin Media confirmed today that the TV XL package will now start at £52 (plus line rental) to offset BT's new cost structure. For those without an XL subscription, the bolt-on rises from £15 to £18. The package will include BT Sport 1 & 2 and BT Sport Europe in HD and the company is keen to stress that the £3 price hike is half of what BT charges (£6 a month for HD) and considerably cheaper than Sky's £7.49 charge for BT Sport channels.
In June, Virgin Media raised the price of Sky Sports and Sky Movies by £2 per month and 50p per month respectively. It blamed the increase on the way broadcasters are asked to bid for TV rights, which it says leads to over-inflated bids and forces companies to pass the cost onto the consumer. It took its complaint to Ofcom, asking the regulator to wade into the recent Premier League auction, but failed to make an impact on the record £5.14 billion spend.
So, to fit in more English and European football, Virgin Media will pass another cost on to customers. However, it does say that because the price hike comes mid-contract, those who aren't happy with the change can cancel their XL package at no cost under Ofcom legislation. To try and sweeten the deal, though, Virgin Media will also add Nat Geo Wild HD and Lifestyle HD to existing TV XL packages and make the BT Sport Europe channel available to stream via the Virgin TV Anywhere app. New customers will see the new pricing from August 1st, but existing customers will enjoy an additional month before they see any changes on their bill.