Sky Sports to undergo major overhaul as it scraps numbered channels and slashes subscription prices

Sky Sports will introduce new channels tailored to specific sports

Sky Sports 1,2,3,4 and 5 are to be retired and replaced by channels dedicated to specific sports as part of a major shakeup which will see the pay-TV powerhouse introduce new subscription packages two-thirds cheaper than current offerings.

The changes include the launch of themed channels, similar to Sky’s existing Formula One channel, for its crown jewel sports including football- which will have two channels- golf and cricket. A fourth channel, Sky Sports Arena, will broadcast other sports including rugby and tennis.

The changes are part of Sky’s attempts to entice sports fans to sign up to cheaper packages focused on the sports they love.

Rather than having to pay £49.50 for the lowest price sports package, customers will be able to sign up for £18, however the full bundles will continue to have a high price point.

The overhaul of the sports strategy marks the latest move by Sky to combat falling viewer numbers at a time when rights costs continue to spiral as a result of heated competition from BT. The broadcaster only added 40,000 subscribers in the UK in the three months to the end of March, compared with 70,000 in the same period last year.

Viewing figures for Sky’s Premier League coverage slumped to their lowest point in seven years last season, despite Sky paying £4.2bn in its last Premier League deal, an 83% increase on the previous agreement.

The figures point to signs of a wider trend around the consumption of live sport as younger audiences increasingly favour highlights on Snapchat over viewing a full game on TV.

Russell Feldman, director of digital, media and technology at YouGov, maintains it is those aged 18-34 that Sky will be paying particular attention to.

"This younger age group has become accustomed to paying a smaller monthly rate for services such as Netflix, and the move by Sky Sports is a step on the way to addressing this.

"All paid for TV providers have also encountered difficulty in quashing the threat posed by illegal streams, as those that are unwilling to pay monthly fees look to circumnavigate them. YouGov research indicates that 16% of 18-34s have illegally streamed content (compared to 10% of the general population).

He added: "Our data also points to another obstacle; 27% of those that are illegal streaming users are also Sky Sports subscribers. The danger here of course is once a user has had something for free, they may begin to shed the services they pay for. The other side to this of course is that the subscription offers more quality and certainty."

Jim Dowling, managing director of HSE Cake said the changes reflected the "new reality of customer desire to cut the cord on big packages and the greater choice available across other platforms".

He added: "This feels like an extension of current strategy rather than a wholesale change. The introduction of Now TV was the moment when Sky's highly valuable sports content was first offered to an audience beyond its traditional subscriber base.

"There are implications for rights holders down the line because the take up of each sport specific channel will be closely monitored and will provide an insight in to the relative value of those sports."

Other research has suggested lower priced online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have led to audiences being put off by Sky’s expensive asking price for its sports content.

Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This includes breaking news as well as writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

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