Broadcaster Sky has announced it will not charge pubs from 14 March for its live sport service while BT Sport will suspend billing for a two-week period for its commercial customers.
Major sports fixtures have been cancelled in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus, with the Government potentially looking to ban mass gatherings shortly.
Fixtures that have been called off include Six Nations rugby matches, the Premier League and England’s cricket tour of Sri Lanka.
Pubs have been calling on sports broadcasters including BT and Sky Sports to offer them support or a suspension in payments as they struggle with a drop in trade.
Sky Business managing director Simon Raggett said: “We understand that these are challenging times for many of our Sky Business venues, who rely on showing live sport in a social environment to attract customers and revenue.
“Supporting these businesses and doing what we can to help them in uncertain times is very important to us. We would like to reassure our Sky Business venues that, from 14 March, we will not be charging them for their Sky Sports service until a live sport schedule returns.”
Sky said it was in discussions with its partners with regards to Racing Pack, Racing TV, Sky Sports Racing and BoxNation packages and would provide more information soon.
Publicans will receive either an SMS text message, an email or a letter informing them that they don’t need to do anything as their bill will be automatically adjusted.
Monitoring the situation
A spokesperson for BT said: “We understand this is an extremely difficult time for the hospitality sector and BT Sport has taken the decision to suspend billing for pubs and clubs customers for a two-week period.
“This is a goodwill gesture that we are putting in place while we monitor the situation. We will keep customers updated as the situation develops.”
The broadcaster did not say whether it would continue this suspension and could not provide any longer-term information for sports pubs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recommended the public do not visit pubs or restaurants for the next few weeks but has not ordered them to close.
Updated Friday 20 March 2020, 13.39:
BT has now extended its period of suspension until the end of next month (April).
A BT spokesperson said: “This is an extremely difficult time for pubs and clubs and their employees. In the light of further postponements to live sport, and following on from the suspension of billing previously announced, BT Sport has taken the decision to further suspend billing for our commercial customers until the end of April.”