Sports Content Comes To Basic Sky Subscription Packages
Today Sky announced that it is making a selection of sports content available to basic package subscribers. A new channel called Sky Sports Mix launching this summer will bring a range of sports content to all its TV customers in the UK and Ireland. Viewers of the new channel will be able to view regular live football matches from competitions such as La Liga, and the World Cup qualifiers, as well as a selection of Premier League and Football league matches. International cricket and golf will also feature on the new channel alongside women’s golf, cricket and netball. As well as live sports the new channel will also feature related content such as sports documentaries ,and sports entertainment shows. This new service is being positioned as a compliment to the Sky Sports TV package where the premium sports content remains.
Why Sports content matters in the battle for subscribers
As the SVOD (subscription video on demand) phenomenon led by Netflix and Amazon continues to erode cable and satellite subscription bases, the public perception is one of accelerated decline for the traditional pay-TV industry. As was demonstrated by last summer’s cord cutting hysteria on Wall Street, the cable and satellite operators are seen as dinosaurs overcharging for a business model that has a clear sell by date. While it’s true that the average age of the US cable TV customer is 55, and that secular cord-cutting is leading to increased consolidation in the industry in order to survive this process (see MIDiA Research’s February Report on US Pay-TV Disruption And Consolidation) , pay-TV still possesses a magic ingredient. And the mainstream premium product that is notably absent from the main SVOD services is live sport. Live sport alongside original scripted drama represents premium content for which mainstream consumers largely recognise the need to pay for.
Sky Sports Mix provides Europe’s dominant pay-TV player the opportunity to start taking the public relations fight back to the SVOD disruptors. Although Netflix and Amazon Instant Video combined UK and Ireland subscription bases are less than half Sky’s 12 million , they are closing the gap rapidly with Netflix alone achieving just over five million subscribers in the UK and Ireland in the previous four years. It is no coincidence that Sky’s official announcement for this new channel made much of the fact that the new service will compliment the content currently available to Sky’s digital audience on social media and YouTube. The digital audience effectively means digital natives where cord-nevers - video content consumers who have never paid for cable or satellite subscriptions predominate. Sky know they have to increasingly engage with this constituency on the new terms defined by online video.
Sport in the era of online video
The glaring absence of sport from the hyped offerings of Netflix and Amazon, be it live or recorded, reveal the Achilles heel of SVOD. Until sports are included into the mix, and sports coverage means live sports, SVOD services will struggle to appeal to the mainstream consumer as a genuine alternative to expensive traditional pay-TV packages. Instead they are likely to remain as complementary services to the beating heart of the TV industry.