Freesat is looking to take advantage of Ofcom’s Wholesale Must Offer rules, offering a pay-TV package, even though many of its set-top boxes don’t feature the necessary conditional access smart card slot.

Managing director Emma Scott told The Guardian that the option of offering subscribers the ability to sign up for Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 was currently being discussed at board level. However, no final decision has been made, and there are concerns that any pay offer might run counter to the Freesat brand

In order to offer pay-TV services, however, Freesat would require the approval of the BBC Trust, and the move would also run counter to its brand name.

Freesat, launched by the BBC and ITV as a joint venture in May 2008, has built a customer base of 1.25 million, ahead of expectations, and is projected to reach 2 million by the end of switchover in 2012. It offers more than 150 channels, high definition and access to the BBC iPlayer.

More than half its customers are former Sky homes, followed by Freeview homes upgrading, with the majority opting for high-definition boxes.

"There is a real gap in the market for people who love and want free television," Scott said.

The British TV market is currently delicately poised, with half consisting of free-to-air homes and half of pay-TV subscribers, principally through BSkyB and Virgin Media. Freesat is financed by a £10.7m annual budget, which comes from shareholders and revenue.