The great YouView Sky Sports divide

  • BT YouView users face Sky Sports uncertainty as TalkTalk YouView users are offered half-price sports.

TalkTalk has offered its YouView TV users half-price access to all of Sky Sports channels for the next 17 months. It comes as YouView users with BT TV face an uncertain future regarding the availability of Sky Sports.

BT and TalkTalk are both partners in the YouView platform, which gives viewers the opportunity to gain access to premium TV channels delivered via the internet connections of the two ISPs. However, BT's entrance into the pay TV market has soured relations between Sky and BT, and has resulted in an ongoing deadlock with regards channel carriage. An Ofcom decision this week to remove regulation that forced Sky to offer two of its sports channels to BT and other platform operators means an uncertain future for Sky Sports on BT TV.

In contrast, TalkTalk offers all of Sky's main channels, excluding Sky Atlantic, in standard definition. It's now offering customers choosing its "Sky Sports boost" one free month of Sky Sports and half-price access for £15 a month for the next 17 months, covering the remainder of this football season and the whole of the 2016/17 Premier League season. (Deal expires 22/12/2015). Although the deal is mainly designed to encourage TalkTalk customers to stay with the service after the recent hacking incident, the offer also highlights the major differences between BT's and TalkTalk's YouView channel offering.

Since Ofcom imposed 'wholesale must offer' rules on Sky forcing them to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 to other platform operators at a regulated price, Virgin Media and TalkTalk have agreed normal commercial terms for the carriage of the channels, alongside the rest of the Sky Sports channel portfolio. In addition, Sky Sports has become available to all viewers with a fast enough internet connection via streaming service NOW TV.

BT and Sky have a commercial deal regarding Sky Sports for the BT Vision service, but this doesn't extend to BT's YouView TV platform, which became the only pay TV service that still depended on Ofcom regulations to bring Sky Sports 1 and 2 to its viewers.

Although there is a commercial arrangement covering BT Vision, BT's old TV service, the majority of BT TV users are now on the newer YouView-based service. For these users, the removal of Ofcom regulation could mean prices for Sky Sports 1 and 2 might increase, or that Sky Sports 1 and 2 could be removed, or downgraded to a standard definition only service at little or no notice depending on how negotiations between BT and Sky proceed.

Carriage wars
Meanwhile, on satellite, BT has sidestepped Sky by retailing its channels, now including AMC, itself, meaning BT Sport channels are added separately to a Sky subscription. Already, Sky viewers miss out on the full set of BT Sport's red button channels on satellite and earlier this year there was a delay in getting AMC in HD on the platform. BT and TalkTalk, in turn, also have no carriage agreement, meaning TalkTalk YouView users can't get BT Sport at all. Virgin Media offers content from both BT and Sky Sports as a premium option.

As previously reported, Ofcom has warned that it will take action, and reimpose regulations if there is any trouble regarding wholesale access to Sky Sports 1 and 2 across the pay TV market, but it's uncertain how it might proceed if problems are confined to just one pay TV operator. Predictably, Sky welcomed Ofcom's move, while BT said they were disappointed. The tit-for-tat legal arguments and uncertainty for viewers look set to continue.

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  1. I have always thought that the sky sports 1&2 must offer for wholesale to other platforms is disproportionate and BT's sports channels should also be on must offer wholesale too. So if OFCOM aren't forcing BT to do must offer wholesale at least removing it from sky sports 1&2 is actually fair!


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