Lineker, Gerrard and Mourinho the star turns for BT Sport
Digital broadcaster has assembled a 'blockbuster' team for next season's Champions League coverage
BT Sport has unveiled its new line-up of pundits and presenters as it prepares for next season when it will become the home of Champions League and Europa League football.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, whose new BBC contract allows him to work for other broadcasters, will anchor the European coverage along with Jake Humphrey. The team of pundits will include Steven Gerrard, Jose Mourinho and Rio Ferdinand, who is also tipped to take on some presenting duties.
They will be joined by other experts including ex-players Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and Owen Hargreaves; former managers Harry Redknapp and Glenn Hoddle; and retired referee Howard Webb.
BT Sport's roster has certainly won over the Daily Mail, which believes it has assembled "one of the most blockbuster line-ups in broadcasting history".
The digital TV channel, which paid almost £900m to beat ITV and Sky to the Champions League rights in 2013, has announced that access to its European football coverage will cost £5 per month for BT broadband customers. But subscribers to BT's TV service will get the BT Sport Pack featuring its new European football channel for free.
BT's existing Premier League, Premiership rugby and the Scottish Premier League coverage will remain free for broadband customers, while some Europa League matches will be made available to all at no cost.
The digital broadcaster's massive investment in European football and high-calibre pundits is the "latest huge bet in BT's strategy to use premium sports programming as a peg to sell its fast broadband service and build a TV business", says Reuters.
And it pulled a rabbit from the hat with its presenting team. "While it was an open secret that Gary Lineker would front BT Sport's coverage of the top European competition, Gerrard's unveiling as a pundit at today's launch was a surprise," says the Daily Telegraph.
And it wasn't just Gerrard's presence that surprised the media. Eurosport seemed surprised that Mourinho would also be involved, and said that the presence of both Gerrard and the Chelsea boss was "not expected".
Sky Sports, which will now be forced to concentrate on the Premier League, did it's best to rain on BT's parade, says The Guardian, "by suggesting that viewers' interest in Europe's premier club competition is not the same as it used to be".
Barney Frances, Sky Sports' managing director claimed: "Over the last five seasons we have seen Champions League audiences fall 36 per cent. Last season, we saw our lowest ever average match audience and not a single European game appeared in our top 40 football matches."