I’ve got a Telewest set-top box in my house – well, it’s called Virgin now but that’s irrelevant – and at midnight last night I lost Sky One and all the other Sky channels thanks to Sky trying to take the piss.
Sky tried to almost double the price of its non-premium channels to Virgin saying that they’ve increased in value. Virgin have quite rightly refused to be held to ransom saying that they couldn’t absorb the extra cost and would have to pass it on to customers. Lets not forget that, depite the name change, the company is still ntl:Telewest and both those companies went through bankruptcy and financial restructuring before they merged. They aren’t a cash rich company and they still have crippling debts.
Anyway, along comes the greedy crooked Australian owner of Sky, Rupert Murdoch, and desides the best way to stifle the opposition and keep Sky’s domination of the home entertainment market is to overprice the Sky channels so that they are either too expensive for Virgin to sell their TV service competitively or that they will be withdrawn and customers will flock over to Sky.
Well unlucky Murdoch, I don’t think your plan will work. Firstly, what is on Sky One that can’t be got elsewhere? The Simpsons and Futurama? They’re on Channel 4 – admittedly not the latest episodes and not in the same quantity but as an avid Simpsons and Futurama fan I can tell you that unless there is a new series I see a new episode on Sky One maybe once every 3 months. Lost and 24? Never watched either of them and all the people I know who are fans of Lost and 24 downloaded episodes off the internet when the UK was a series behind the US and will do the same now.
What are Sky doing to the advertising value of their channels now? Virgin has 3.3m cable TV subscribers, all of which had access to Sky channels until last night. BSkyB has 7.7m customers – a third of its audience has disappeared overnight. Lets see your advertising reps put a positive spin on that one Rupert. Will Sky be able to afford the next series of Lost and/or 24 with the loss of income from Virgin and the reduction in advertising revenue that will follow from the channels being pulled from Virgin?
If you’re on Freeview and laughing because you don’t pay a subscription and still receive a handful of Sky channels then your schadenfreude will come back to haunt you because guess what – Sky are pulling their channels from Freeview in the next couple of months too. One industry organisation estimates that there are 5.8m Freeview viewers and Freeview itself (which is part-owned by Sky) reckons that 10m set-top boxes have been sold since it took over digital terrestrial broadcasting when ITV Digital went bump.
So, taking into account Virgin and Freeview customers who will no longer be able to receive Sky channels, Sky is losing over 50% of its audience for its own channels.
There’s another angle to look at as well. Virgin Media, through Telewest, owns Flextech. Flextech owns Bravo and Trouble and half-owns the UKTV family of channels with the BBC. UKTV includes UK Gold, Living, UK History, etc. These are some of the most popular channels in the UK, along with the BBC channels and Sky channels. If Virgin were to do the same thing to Sky then things could get interesting.
Anyway, back to the title of this post – I just wanted to take this opportunity to say “up yours Murdoch”. I will stay with Virgin Media and you can shove your crappy satellite TV service up your arse. I don’t need a phone line to “go interactive” and I don’t need to buy an expensive set-top box to have a PVR service. In fact, I don’t have to buy a set-top box at all – Virgin provide it and replace it at their own cost if it’s faulty. I also get to have cable broadband down the same cable into my house whereas Sky broadband customers have to use antiquated, inferior BT copper wires. Cable broadband is, of course, faster and more reliable than ADSL. When my mobile phone contract is up I also have the opportunity to take out a cheap mobile phone package and get my internet, TV, landline and mobile phone all on one bill with even bigger discounts for having all four services. But most importantly I won’t be lining your grubby pockets and for that I am quite prepared to forego a couple of Sky channels.