Sky-high prices

By Matt Eley Matt

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Licensees, Cost, Sky

Licensees have slammed Sky's latest deals on sports packages for 'giving with one hand and taking away with the other'. Last week The Publican...

Licensees have slammed Sky's latest deals on sports packages for 'giving with one hand and taking away with the other'.

Last week The Publican​ reported that the broadcasting giant was freezing the prices of its subscriptions for pubs. But furious licensees have since complained about hidden costs and changes to channels available in the packages.

Meanwhile, others who last year signed up to pay 2006 prices for another year have been brought in line with current payment plans and face steep bill rises.

Tony Hailwood, managing director of London-based Ruse Bars, said that after signing up to stay on 2006 prices last year he now faces an 11.7 per cent hike in his Sky bill.

He said: "I think Sky is going too far this time. I have always been a great defender of Sky because they offer a fantastic range of sport but they are trying to make it look like they are doing us a favour.

"Last year we were told to sign up early to keep our subscription price the same but now I am being hit with an 11.7 per cent increase.

"I have no choice because Sky is an integral part of my business, but they are doing nothing to help British licensees."

Although Sky has said prices for this year will be "unchanged", many licensees believe it is too little, too late. The latest deal follows years of subscription charge increases. In 2007 Sky raised prices 11 per cent, following a 13 per cent rise just a year earlier.

It has led some licensees to ditch the service altogether as they cannot justify the outlay.

Subscriptions

A Punch Taverns survey of its licensees showed that between 2003 and 2007 the number of its licensees with Sky fell from 61 per cent to 34 per cent.

A Sky spokeswoman would not reveal subscription numbers but said its decision to freeze prices "bore no relation" to the number of licensees signed up.

In fact, Sky says this year's deal is intended to help licensees through difficult trading times.

The spokeswoman said: "We recognise that the licensed trade has been affected by the credit crunch, rising utility bills and the smoking ban and we've taken the decision to keep our prices unchanged following dialogue with customers."

An added bonus, she said, is that customers can now get a second viewing card for free so they can screen two channels simultaneously - but it costs around £100 to have the card installed by a Sky engineer.

And although prices may remain unchanged, the packages do not. For example, horse racing channel At The Races is no longer included in the new Base or the new Ultimate package. Licensees will have to pay extra to subscribe.

Sky puts this down to an increase in what it has to pay for the rights to broadcast.

Pulling the plug

Phillip Taylor, licensee of the Kings Head in Loddon, Norfolk, said he has been so hard done by on the deal he is pulling the plug on Sky.

"At The Races is the only reason we got it in the first place and now we would have to pay an extra £35 a month for it," he said.

"We are a village pub and it's come to the point where I can't justify it any more. It's a pity there's no national campaign so everyone can cancel Sky at the same time."

And Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, added: "We welcome Sky's recognition that these are difficult economic times and of course we would welcome a price freeze. However, the reality for many operators is that this isn't a freeze at all: they face double-figure percentage increases to provide the same service for their customers." "

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