BSkyB is to pull Sky Sports News from Freeview in a bid to drive subscription revenues, ending eight years of free-to-air broadcasting of the channel.
BSkyB, which launched Sky Sports News on Freeview in 2002 alongside Sky News and Sky Travel, is to replace the channel with a one-hour-timeshifted Sky 3 +1 service later this year. Sky 3 replaced Sky Travel in 2005.
The move marks a significant shift in BSkyB’s attitude to the benefits of using the reach of the free-to-air service as a marketing channel to attract subscribers to its pay-TV service. Despite the Sky Sports News service benefiting from ad revenues on the Freeview platform it is thought that BSkyB has decided that over the long term there is more advantage to be had from taking it completely subscription only.
As part of the move, BSkyB is to boost editorial investment in Sky Sports News as it prepares to launch a high-definition service.
It is understood that the investment, which is not likely to include large numbers of staff hirings, will include new facilities and equipment such as outside broadcast trucks and a commitment to cover a wider range of sports. When the service becomes pay-only it will be available on Sky, Virgin Media and Talk Talk TV.
“As part of a subscription service, customers can look forward to expanded coverage and the launch of Europe’s first HD sports news service,” said the Sky Sports managing director, Barney Francis.
BskyB will pick up a fourth slot on Freeview when it takes over the Virgin 1 channel, assuming regulatory clearance is given to its �160m takeover of Virgin Media Television’s channels. BSkyB did not buy the licence to continue to operate the Virgin 1 name.
Last month BSkyB moved to streamline its Sky News sports operation to share more output with the Sky Sports News operation.