Monday, February 26, 2007


Sky is taking it all the way. Having rattled its sabre and asked for a big pile of cash it will soon strip 3.3m Virgin Media customers of Sky One and Sky News, as well as a few other channels.

It's playing hard ball, but ultimately a huge mistake by Sky. It is another example of showing itself to be a bully in the market place using strong-arm tactics to get its own way.

It has already derailed a Virgin Media takeover of ITV by snapping up a stake in its terrestrial rival (for which it could still face an Ofcom probe) and now it seems to think it can win the multichannel war by depriving Virgin Customers. That, or it really does think it should get more money.

Sky claims this morning that it has increased investment in its basic channels by 68% over the last five years to around £200m a year and, as a consequence, the most-watched pay TV programmes in cable households are on the Sky basic channels.

"We are simply seeking a fair price so that we can continue to provide the great shows and choice that Virgin Media customers value."

It hopes that by denying Virgin Media customers of services like Sky One and with it hit shows such as 'Lost', '24', 'The Simpsons' and 'Battlestar Galactica', people will switch suppliers.

It is apparently set to capitalise on this with an advertising campaign this week reminding Virgin Media customers what they are missing out on.

I've no doubt it will hit home as Sky's US imports are some of the best on television, but are they really the draw they once were?

The answer to this question is yes and no. I think yes for a small group of people who will go to lengths to watch it, but for the majority I think they will probably find themselves getting along just fine without it.

For the small group who really can't live without maybe some of them will dump Virgin and move to Sky, but for the others they can just watch it on the web where it isn’t even all that illegal anymore.

There are lots of sites now offering entire episodes of just aired US TV shows free to watch and you don't even have to download it.

The Guardian helpfully ran a nice big feature about this on Saturday. Telling people of the wonders of sites like, which lists the places you can go and watch these shows. You don't need Sky.

"I'm breaking up with my DVD rental service. We've had good times, we've had sad times, even a stressful week where I had to sign two forms detailing the location of the post box used to return Seinfeld, but it's over. I've found

"Here, in pleasing slate tones, are the links to every television programme you could ever hope to see (Lost, Ugly Betty, Dragon's Den), many you'll go out of your way to avoid (Red Dwarf US, Coupling, Joey) and entire seasons of shows yet to air in this country - many featuring characters from Friends. Enjoy Chandler as Matt Albie in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - could he be more stressed about writing a sketch comedy show?"

Admittedly the quality is not great, but really it’s good enough, and besides shows are coming to DVD faster than ever. You can even buy the box set when it’s out for the glossy finish.

I've already tried some of these services because I'm impatient and really can't wait, and I know many others who have done so as well.

My main TV addiction is 'Battlestar Galactica, which I have already mentioned on this blog before (why does no one listen?), which is the best thing on TV. A mix between 'Alien', 'The West Wing' and 'Blade Runner', with quality parenting like that you can't really go wrong.

I digress, slightly, I might have several years ago thought about dumping Virgin or Telewest as it was, but not anymore.

I've got a Virgin Plus digital video recorder on the way and really for the time I spend watching TV there is plenty to see.

I stopped watching 'Lost' after it moved to Sky, but that wouldn't even be a problem. Virgin has signed 'Lost' as a download. So even for 'Lost' fans who are not all the technologically au fait with the PC they can still watch that show (why you would, I'm not sure – nothing happens).

The new Brand Republic website has now launched and in future you will be able to find this blog here.


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