Page 2: Creation of BSkyB
BSkyB has come a long way. When Sky began broadcasting via the Astra satellite back in February 1989 it offered four channels – Sky Channel, Sky News, Sky Movies and Eurosport. It was Britain’s first satellite broadcaster and overnight it doubled the number of channels available to the public.
By 1990 Sky had sold one million decoders and had established a growing customer base. But in April of that year a rival service was launched by British Satellite Broadcasting. It offered five channels from the Marco Polo satellite, but had an uphill struggle getting established. It was not long before BSB and Sky agreed on a merger, creating British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) and a five channel line up of Sky One, Sky News, Sky Movies, the Movie Channel and Sky Sports. The merger was driven by a shared aim – to give viewers more choice.
In 1992 BSkyB secured the exclusive rights to live FA Premier League football coverage – a major coup for the company. It also announced its first operational break-even.
Over the next two years Sky continued to increase what was on offer to its subscribers. In 1993 it added a multichannel package, offering a selection of themed channels that complemented the existing movies, news and sports services. A further expansion occurred in 1994 with the launch of Sky Sports 2.
1995 was a big year for BSkyB. 17.5% of the company was floated on the UK and US stock exchanges and BSkyB entered the FTSE 100 index. Also that year the company secured the second term of the FA Premier League contract. The company continued to innovate, making use of new technology. It pioneered domestic pay-per-view in the UK in 1996 with the Bruno v Tyson heavyweight boxing championship and in the following year launched Sky Box Office – an ordering system that allowed customers to order movies on a pay-as-you-view basis.
On October 1st 1998, Sky digital was launched - Britain’s first digital television service. It has achieved the fastest roll out of any digital television platform in Europe. It meant that Sky could dramatically extend the choice it gave its customers – with some 140 channels on offer.
Interactivity came to Sky in 1999 with the launch of Open and Sky Sports Active. Using Sky digital technology, Open allowed customers to shop, bank, play games and email directly from their television. Sky Sports Active, available during major live sports broadcasts on Sky Sports Extra, gave customers a choice of alternative camera angles, access to in-depth statistics and match highlights on demand via their Sky digital handset.
Sky digital currently has 4.1 million customers and it is anticipated by the end of 2003 that Sky will have 7 million digital satellite households (18.9 million individuals) - fully a third of all TV homes in Britain. It has secured the main live rights to FA Premier League Football until the end of the 2003-04 season. And it has firmly established itself as a leading innovator and pioneer in broadcasting.