Top Up TV has joined the battle for the premium sports viewer with the announcement that it will add Sky Sports 1 and 2 to its terrestrial platform from August 2.
The statement follows similar announcements from BT, whose terrestrial capacity will be used by the premium service. At £22.99 (€27) per month for one channel and £31.99 for both, the pricepoint is considerably higher than BT’s loss-leading £11.99 and £16.99. Top Up TV already carries ESPN and viewers will be able to purchase a bundle of the two Sky Sports channels and ESPN for a monthly £39.99. The DTT platform says its minimum contract period of one-month is considerably shorter than that of its rivals.
Yesterday, Virgin Media confirmed it would offer the Sky Sports HD channels for an additional £7 per month to viewers already subscribing to the premium channels in any package. Previously Virgin has promoted the fact that unlike Sky it does not levy an additional fee for HD channels, though it has placed a charge on its PVR product in some packages.
Top Up TV will be the only direct route for DTT viewers to upgrade from Freeview. Many IDTVs sold feature a conditional access slot that means viewers would only need to purchase a conditional access module (CAM) and Top Up TV smart card in order to view the channels. This however is dependent on negotiations between Top Up TV and Sky on the minimum security requirements.
The interest will be in whether there are any sports fans left to subscribe to the Sky Sports package, particularly when both Virgin Media and Sky itself offer the full pack of Sky Sports channels. Given the wider array of channels available to cable and satellite viewers it seems unlikely in the extreme that any viewers would switch. This puts those viewers living in rented accommodation, unable to install a dish, and outside of Virgin Media’s coverage as the prime candidates for a DTT subscription to Sky Sports.
The availability of Sky Sports to BT and Top Up TV has come about as a result of Ofcom’s Wholesale Must Offer proposals that are currently the subject of a closed hearing of the Competition Appeal Tribunal.