Is The BT Broadband Giveaway With The Express An Engagement Party Or A Public Fling To Get BSkyB To Dig Deeper?

It could be just a promotion like any other. But the BT Broadband giveaway deal looks a lot more meaningful for one of two reasons.

It either signifies that Northern & Shell owner, Richard Desmond, sees BT as his current preferred bidder for Channel 5, or it is a sign that he wants the bidding war for the television station to take on a new intensity ahead of the May deadline.

It could mean that BSkyB is going to have to dig deeper -- or it may well signify that BT is entering terrestrial television.

It is generally accepted that either BT or BSkyB are the most likely buyers in Desmond's sights. BSkyB already offers Pick, formerly Sky 3, unscrambled on Freeview and has hinted in the past that its future may not be totally devoted to pay TV. However, its biggest motivation will be to ensure that BT doesn't get its hands on the channel.

BSkyB's success has always been attributed to football rights and it now has a rival bidder in the form of BT. It has weekly Premier League and Scottish Premier League games, FA Cup ties and Europa League matches. Starting in 2015 it will have three seasons of exclusive Champions League and Europa League football, after paying double today's price of nearly £300m per season.

As part of BT's deal, it has to air at least one English club's game for free each week of play, and so speculation has surrounded its two choices -- a partnership with an existing terrestrial provider or buying Channel 5 so it has its own freely available channel.

That is why tonight when Channel 5 airs adverts for the Daily Express giveaway of six months free broadband, with BT Sports 1 and 2, the media insider will raise an eyebrow and think this has to be far more than coincidence.

BT is either showing off the bride ahead of May nuptials -- or BSkyB is being given a very clear signal that Channel 5 is being wined and dined and it's going to up its game to be chosen in May.

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