Sky has caused outrage among licensees by hiking up its annual subscription charge for Premiership football in pubs.
The move has come with no consultation from the satellite station and has left licensees having to cope with increases of up to 22 per cent.
Charlie Way, lessee of the Legh Arms in Knutsford, near Manchester, said: "It's bloody scandalous. I didn't hear anything about it until I saw the figure on the front of Sky's Preview magazine.
"My rate has been raised from £340 to £415 a month. I rang Sky up and its justification for the hike was that it was showing the Champions League - and that's on ITV anyway."
Danny Scott (pictured), licensee of Rick's Bar in Greenwich, London, said: "It's disgusting. My charge has risen from £270 to £329 per month. The problem is that it's a chicken and egg situation. If we don't have Sky then we will lose a lot of business to competitors who do."
Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries (W&DB) has been in discussions with the satellite company and has decided to slash the number of managed W&DB outlets that take Sky this season from 280 to 190.
Derek Andrew, managing director of the company's managed house estate, said the cuts were down to Sky's poor attitude to its customers.
He said: "The company has no customer empathy or loyalty. As a result all it can look forward to is a decreasing distribution base and if one of the terrestrial channels gets its act together, then people will desert Sky in droves. I think a day of reckoning could come for Sky."
A spokesman for Sky defended the price hike. "Our average commercial price increase is 18 per cent, some customers have gone up by 22 per cent but others have only gone up by eight per cent," he said.
"Sky's prices reflect the value of Sky programming to our customers and the increasing cost to us of providing it. "This year we have added three new Sky music channels and extended free viewing of the Attheraces channel. We are continually adding value to our pub and club subscription package."
Licensees are expecting further costs next month when the new rates for Sky's pay-per-view channel, Premiership Plus, are announced.
BBC bidding for live games
Changes might be afoot for Premiership viewing for the 2004/5 season. With the European Union (EU) suggesting that the English Premier League's handling of TV rights is anti-competitive, reports have surfaced that games may have to be shared between bidding stations.
Rumours are that a deal will be struck between Sky and the BBC, with both showing live games, something that could ease the financial burden on licensees. A spokeswoman for Sky said that discussions were ongoing and nothing had yet been confirmed.
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