Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has been signed up as a football expert for BT’s new sports channel as it shapes up to take on Sky.
The telecoms giant is muscling in on Sky’s dominance of soccer coverage this summer after winning a three-year deal to show 38 games a season.
Now it has recruited Ferdinand, 34, to work as an “interviewer, programme-maker and football expert” on the new BT Sport channel.
The announcement comes on the day that BT unveils more details of its sport offering, amid scepticism in the City over whether it can do better than other pretenders to the pay-TV crown such as ESPN and Setanta.
BT’s move into football coverage is part of a strategy to strengthen its position in the broadband market, bundling its TV together with internet and telephone services.
It hopes the signing of Ferdinand will help lure customers to sign up for BT Sport, which will also include live football from Italy, France, Germany, Brazil and the US, as well as the FA Cup, SPL and the Europa League.
In addition, the channel will feature rugby union games from the Aviva Premiership.
Ferdinand has been a key member of the Manchester United squad for more than a decade, totting up 486 Premier League appearances and winning 81 England caps.
He has been lined up by BT to make football and lifestyle programmes as well as conducting big name interviews – which he has done in the past for his online magazine, £5.
Ferdinand, last week named in the PFA Team of the Year in a poll of fellow professionals, will also act as a BT ambassador. alongside Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
He said: “I am really excited about joining BT Sport. I will be doing a lot more than sitting on a sofa working as a football expert.
“I am going to be able to make programmes for BT Sport, not just about football, but also about other things that I am passionate about.”
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: “We are absolutely delighted that we’ve been able to sign another major talent in Rio.”
He said Ferdinand was a “great role model” and a “perfect ambassador for BT” as a technology lover with four million followers on Twitter and his own digital magazine.