In case it had escaped your notice, this week is the 25th anniversary of one of the most significant events in broadcasting history.
The entering into service of the Astra 1A satellite and the launch on Sunday February 5, 1989 of Sky Television’s 4-channel TV service was a major milestone.
That it was just four channels almost seems laughable, but at the time it doubled the choice of the UK viewer, or at least the 30,000 or so who actually had the means to watch it.
To be precise Sky had been beaten to it by the launch of the Scandinavian TV3/Scansat, also broadcasting from the UK to circumvent local regulations.
The promotional videos we had seen in the weeks before showed us Sky Channel (soon to be rebranded as Sky One) and a continuation of sorts of the European cable service that had run in the preceding years; Sky News; Eurosport and a free to air Sky Movies. Yes, a premium movie channel with no ads, no interruptions, and probably most important, no encryption system.
Given the power of the Hollywood majors it seems astounding that they were prepared to let Sky Movies off for just the occasional Start Up Transmission caption. We saw those on Sky News too.
But actually there wasn’t actually anything particularly different about what Sky was doing; the significance really lies in the fact that somebody else was doing it.
Only once the bitter fight with British Satellite Broadcasting was over did things really start to move. The launch of the Premier League in 1993 was to underpin the broadcaster for more than a decade as slowly premium sports surpassed movies as the driver of pay-TV.
Significantly, it is now the entertainment and the experience that is the message that comes through in Sky’s Marks & Spencer style advertising.
Astra has grown too. Platforms have emerged in other markets, new satellites launched, and new positions opened up. And it’s not as if the operator’s competitors have been slouches either.