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TalkTalk Says BT Cost Customers as Soccer Season Began

TalkTalk Telecom Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Dido Harding said the British broadband provider lost users to BT Group Plc’s new sports channels at the start of this soccer season a few months ago.

Customers “began to believe the PR that you get BT Sport for free,” Harding said at an investor conference in Barcelona today. BT offers its sports channels at no extra charge when users sign up for broadband service. The defections didn’t continue as “the truth is you don’t save money,” Harding said.

BT’s broadband, phone and TV packages start at 15 pounds ($24) a month plus a 15.45-pound “line rental” fee and include the BT Sport channels. London-based TalkTalk’s packages start at 7.50 pounds a month plus a 15.40 line rental fee.

After signing up more than 2 million customers to its three-month-old sports channels, BT said Nov. 9 it agreed to pay $1.4 billion for exclusive live broadcast rights to the UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League soccer games. BT’s bid trumped British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc for the rights, which helped make BSkyB the biggest pay-TV company in the U.K.

When asked if TalkTalk would be interested in owning similar content rights, Harding said “categorically not.”

“We are a value-for-money provider,” Harding said. “The more our competitors spend ever larger sums on content, the happier we are to be in another part of the market.”

TalkTalk shares have advanced 16 percent this year through yesterday. They fell 12 percent on May 9, the day that BT’s sports plan was unveiled. BT, also based in London, has gained 64 percent.

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