Friday, February 23, 2007

Will Sky pull its channels from Freeview and Cable?

After announcing it planned to pull its free-to-air channels from Freeview and replace them with paid-for channels in the same space (let us hope Ofcom takes a dim view of this), Sky is now on the verge of pulling its channels from Virgin, which is the rebranded name for NTL/Telewest. Sky decided to double its asking price for its basic channels while slashing the amount it was offering Virgin for carrying its family of channels on satellite.

Now talks have reportedly collapsed, with the very real prospect that Sky One, Sky Two and Sky Sports News will disappear from cable. Let us hope that Virgin hold firm and let Sky do just that. Sky's combined target audience is over 8 million with cable, but only 5 million without. If I were an advertiser, I would expect Sky to slash its advertising rates if it suddenly loses nearly 40 per cent of its audience.

As for me, I'm waiting to see what Virgin's new rates for my package will be - the old combo package I had is no longer covered, and right now I'm sorely tempted by saving myself over £20 a month and going for the 3 for £30 package. Broadband will be slower ("just" 2MB, which apparently is only good for basic web surfing and email according to Virgin's blurb. Er, I don't think so!), we'll have less TV channels to choose from (but most of our favourites will remain, although my addiction to the music channels will be cut) and we'll only get free calls at the weekend. However, the £20 saving means we shouldn't have to worry too much about running up massive phone bills.

However, my decision on whether or not to cut back on my Virgin service has nothing to do with Sky. It currently has two programmes we avidly watch: Bones and Lost. However, in recent weeks we've had loads of other programmes to enjoy: Life on Mars, Jericho on Hallmark, endless Scrubs re-runs on E4, Paramount and ABC1, Ugly Betty on Channel 4, plus Battlestar Galactica on DVD. Yes, I can happily live without Sky if it decides to cut off its nose to spite its face. In fact, if my money isn't indirectly going into Rupert Murdoch's pocket that can only be a good thing...

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