On Wednesday March 12, the BBC’s director general, Greg Dyke, announced that the broadcaster would not be renewing its carriage agreement with British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). This is a landmark move in the fiercely competitive UK television scene. It means effectively that the commercial powerhouse will lose a huge amount of revenue and gain a new competitor in direct-to-home services.
On Wednesday evening, Dyke said: “We have the opportunity to move all of our services to a recently-launched satellite whose signal is aimed at the UK and Ireland and will not spill over into the rest of Europe."
"This means many of the rights problems we would have had on the existing satellite disappear.”
Dyke claimed the BBC would save around £85 million in carriage fees alone.
Rights holders who have sold BBC rights only on a territory-by-territory basis could in fact legally challenge the announced decision by the BBC. Industry experts have appeared in full force to point out that the footprint of Astra 2D in fact does cover parts of Spain, Germany and Italy, and if this is true, the BBC will most likely have to do some serious negotiations with the rights holders for sporting events.
To further complicate matters, BBC and Sky are partners in the revived digital terrestrial service in the UK, Freeview. It is uncertain what the future of this alliance is.
Whatever happens, the developing situation may be seen as poetic justice insofar as Sky is well accustomed to burying competitors with more attractive pricing. In this case, the BBC service will not only be in the clear, it will also be free.