Sky: shop pubs that show sport illegally

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Related tags: Prem plus, Sky sports, Sky

Broadcaster opts for pint-glass bug by Tony Halstead Sky is encouraging licensees to shop other pubs that show sport illegally. The satellite...

Broadcaster opts for pint-glass bug by Tony Halstead Sky is encouraging licensees to shop other pubs that show sport illegally. The satellite broadcaster has put a new pint-glass symbol on its broadcasts ­ those who don't have it are not legitimate business subscribers. Bona fide licensees have been given details of how they can contact Sky with any concerns about other hosts. The pint-glass "bug" is programmed to appear only at selected times that will be known solely by Sky and its authorised investigation agents. The satellite broadcaster said the "bug" is an ingenious device which will instantly reveal whether licensees and bar operators are screening programmes within the law. "We have made a major investment in technology to devise a system which instantly reveals who is ­ and most importantly who is not ­ showing Sky with the correct agreement," said Bruce Cuthbert, head of operations for Sky Business. "The beauty of this is that licensees do not know when the pint glass will appear in the corner of the screen. "It will make it very easy to identify and take action against pubs which are showing Sky Sports illegally," he added. Cuthbert said the system went "live" last Friday and had prompted an immediate response from licensees. "We have had an excellent and very positive reaction from our commercial subscribers who are delighted we are taking steps to weed out people who show football and other sports without the correct commercial agreement," he said. Sky said the pint-glass bug will appear and disappear on different channels and at different times to retain an element of surprise. The company held back the full outline of the initiative until this week, but is now starting to release details to all its customers. It said it wanted to keep the initiative "covert" in order to preserve its full impact and effectiveness. It warns that licensees caught showing Sky illegally face fines of up to £5,000 and a criminal record and also risk action through the civil courts. Federation of Licensed Vic-tuallers Associations chief executive Tony Payne welcomed the initiative, which, he said, would help protect genuine subscribers. "While I have always said I believe licensees pay too much for Sky, bona fide customers have to be protected from those who flout the system and show sports in their pubs using a domestic permit." l Reaching for the Sky ­ p14 Prem Plus price hike sends subscriptions tumbling by The PMA Team The number of pubs subscribing to Sky's Prem Plus service has dropped by 30% since the 300% cost hike during the summer. Many licensees were furious when the cost of Prem Plus rose from an average of just under £400 last season to around £1,500 this season. Cancellation of the service by three out of every 10 of Sky's customers shows that many now regard it as far too expensive now. But Sky business division director Iain Holden has insisted that the company expected the drop to be more. He said: "More people have taken Prem Plus than I thought would do. It will be a building process over the next couple of years whereby licensees see the opportunity of Prem Plus. The pubs that have taken Prem Plus are getting a huge benefit from it. An extra two million people went to the pub to watch a game on the first Prem Plus Saturday this season." Sky, which also raised the cost of the standard Sky package by 18% for this season, claimed that the number of people visiting the pub to watch Sky sport has risen by a massive 45% this season ­ to 4.8 million a week ­ as a result of its improved service. "[The improved service] is making more people want to go and spend more money in the pub," said Holden. Sky also told the MA this week that its annual income from the pub industry was around £130m. Despite the 30% drop in Prem Plus subscribers, Sky has even increased its income from this source this season because of the quadrupled charges. An Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers survey found 16 members were now paying a total season charge of £1.4m for Prem Plus compared to £350,000 last season. But the broadcaster insists that its service is generating around £2bn a year the pub industry ­ with customers spending an average £10 per head each Sky visit. Licensee Janet Kenny, of the Dog & Partridge, Standish, near Wigan, who saw her Prem Plus bill rise from £400 for the season to £1,600, is unimpressed. She said: "I'm thinking of cancelling ­ I'm going to have to evaluate it properly by taking till readings after each match." l Leader column ­ p16

Related topics: Legislation

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