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Paying Sky for free public service television channels

Try this: pop out to Tesco and when you get to the checkout, demand that they pay you to take the goods away. When they ask why, say "I work for Sky".

Try this: pop out to Tesco and when you get to the checkout, de
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Whilst I was at the Edinburgh Television Festival once, waiting for a lecture from the Minister for Fun, I was chatting to a co-attendee.

During the conversation he told me a rather jolly marketing anecdote.

There are three DIY shops on a high street, all selling hammers. The one on the left, wanting to increase sales puts a big sign up in the window: "ALL HAMMERS 50% OFF".

The shop on the left, not wanting all the custom to go the competitor, ups the ante. "ALL HAMMERS HALF PRICE".

And the shop in the middle, what banner does it put up?

people out shopping on escalator


I was remind of that when I read recently the article, Channel 4 and ITV challenge Sky over data it gleans about their shows - Media - , and considered the amount Sky charges, and the channels people actually watch.

For example, almost three quarters of viewing of TV channels is to free-to-air channels provided by the main public service broadcasters, the BBC, ITV plc, STV, UTV, S4C, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

No subscription or other ongoing payment is required to watch these channels. (Figures from BARB, July 2011 Monthly Total Viewing Summary).

However, the next set of channels do cost if you have Sky. The "platform access cost" is £234, and for the full range of non-premium channels, it is £294 a year.

The Sky Sports channels (viewing share 2.7%) cost an extra £243 each year. The Sky Movies channels (viewing share 1.5%) costs an extra £192 a year.

However, the final 5.8% of viewing is of free-to-air channels:

Sky's charges to other broadasters

So, you would think that Sky would be very grateful to the public service broadcasters, because all their content is what people actually watch most of the time. All the public service broadcasts on satellite are using transponders the broadcasters have obtained directly from SES Astra - Sky do not own the satellites, they also rent their capacity from SES Astra.

However, as Mike Dimmick (thanks) points out, after looking at this - BSkyB and SSSL Published Price List - 30 October 2009 this is what Sky charges (yes, CHARGES) the BBC to list their free-to-air programmes in the "Sky Guide":

EPG listing charge: £21,000 per TV channel per year, £16k per radio channel per year. The BBC list 11 TV channels excluding the 20 regional variations of BBC One and Two, and 18 radio channels. That's £231k for the non-regional plus £420k for the regional slots, and £288k for the radio stations, £939k total.

Then there's a 'Platform Contribution Charge' which seems to be set on viewership. For the BBC:

  • BBC News Channel £994,310
  • BBC1 £4,771,505
  • BBC2 £1,261,600
  • BBC3 £994,310
  • BBC4 £310,055
  • CBBC £342,130
  • Cbeebies £737,715

BBC Alba, BBC Parliament, BBC HD and BBC One HD presumably pay the £92k 'Other Television Channels' charge and the 18 radio stations the £6k charge. Total £9,887,625.

The BBC is probably paying Sky in the region of £11-12m for EPG services.

In most businesses, it is the business that has to pay for the data it uses. Newspapers don't charge the journlists for their reports. Marketing companies have to pay for address lists. You don't get paid a pound-a-minute for calling 118118. How Sky get away with this outrage is a very good question.

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Monday, 5 September 2011
11:15 AM

It is strange behaviour of Sky subscribers from the analysis above to pay for something they already can get for free. I too know people who have a Sky Sports subscription who for the most part watch the BBC/ITV FTA channels. I suspect you have to be a real sports fanatic to pay the extortionate fees that Sky demand to watch their programmes which are by no means advert free.

As for the fees Sky charge for appearing on their EPG, I understood when the BBC ditched Sky some years back from using their encryption system and moved to Astra 2D, there were going to be only one-off fees to change the Sky software accordingly, not unreasonable, so I don't understand how this has become an annual charge of nearly between 11 and 12 million pounds as indicated in the article when I understood previously they were paying around 17 million for handling the whole transmission which included paying Astra too.

Maybe the Murdocks have more influence at the BBC than we know and have hacked a few phones of television centre top-brass and know where the bodies are buried.

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Duncan's 14 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
9:38 AM


I wasn't aware of this situation and am pleased that I now am. The situation is complicated, not least by the top level media executives travelling between Sky, BBC, ITV (and even the government). You have highlighted a clear inconsistency that I believes needs rectifying.

If I wanted to attempt to change the situation, to whom should I write? I know I am one voice but its right to try.



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MR's 3 posts GB flag
MR's: mapM's Freeview map terrainM's terrain plot wavesM's frequency data M's Freeview Detailed Coverage
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Mart G
6:15 AM

Hi all
That amount of cash to list stations is outrageous and stupid. I'm going to go the freesat route as I don't want to pay sky a silly monthly charge what's the best freesat to go for is it bbc or sky's one ? I assume you get more channels with the sky one ? Which is best? Thanx

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Mart G's 5 posts GB flag
Mart G
6:24 AM

Am sure the murdoks will get another grilling soon anyway but no doubt they will just buy their way out of trouble. Their power over the uk's prog's are just stupid and unfair F1 springs to my mind I expect moto gp will be next on the list to go!!! :(

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Mart G's 5 posts GB flag

9:35 AM

Mart G in my view it is better to get the Freesatellite from Sky at a one off £175 (No subscription) than Freesat.

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David's 306 posts GB flag

8:35 PM

David: That's fine unless you want to have HD or recording facilities.

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag
Thursday, 8 September 2011

9:53 AM

Sky pays the BBC,channel 4,more4 ande 4 to have their channels on EPG inRepublic of Ireland.Sky had to do this in order to compoete with UPC cable which relays these channels on their systems free under the tv without frontiers agreement.Upc also relays UTV which Sky is prevented from doing for internal competion reasons.Sky brochures in Ireland state that above channels are available without subscription.There are Irish versions of the Channel 4 group for advertising purposes.,only on Sky.

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U's 98 posts IE flag
p batley
11:28 AM

hi dont take no notice of david dont get involved with sky go get a hd freesat box and connect it 2 your dish brilliant picture on hd bbc 1 bbc hd itv hd channel hd

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p batley's 12 posts GB flag

12:08 PM

P.batley, your advise is ok but you assume people have allready had an installation and a dish just waiting to have its co-ax plugged in.
The £175 paid once to Sky is a complete set up.
If no previous Sky dish on top of the Freesat box one would have to arrange purchase of a dish and its installation.

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David's 306 posts GB flag
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