PERHAPS it was deliberately timed for the end of the pantomime season.
Sky, for so long a thorn in the side of the trade, made it clear last week that it’s no longer content to play the role of villain in the eyes of Scotland’s publicans.
The broadcaster has unveiled further changes to its pricing structure which will see discounts handed to food-led operators and pubs in low-population areas.
For some it could mean a discount of as much as 60% on their monthly bill.
Customers will also be given the opportunity to switch to a rolling monthly contract, ending the previous arrangement that locked operators into 12-month deals.
Sky said the changes are the latest step in a “journey” it began 18 months ago, when it announced the first rebates available for food-led pubs and sports venues.
Sky Business chief Iain Holden told SLTN the strategy is all about ensuring Sky is financially accessible to businesses of all sizes and styles, and building subscriptions in parts of the trade in which it’s perhaps been under-represented.
According to Holden, the company knows its prices have to better reflect the diversity of the modern trade. He said Sky wanted to make its prices more appealing for venues like gastro pubs or restaurants, where the offer isn’t all about live sport but owners would like the flexibility to show football or rugby matches now and again.
And the early signs are that the new strategy will translate into significant savings for some, including Dennis Forsyth, owner of the SLTN award winning Cheers Café Bar and Tavern in Fraserburgh.
Forsyth confirmed he was looking forward to getting 20% off his Sky bill in March, on the basis of the broadcaster’s new location-based discount.
“I’m obviously pleased to see a reduction in the costs and it’s a step in the right direction,” he told SLTN.
“For too long it’s been one way traffic with Sky prices rising significantly each year.”
I appreciate that not everyone across the trade will benefit to the same extent: non-food pubs in highly populated areas which drive most of their trade on the back of live sport will continue to pay a premium for Sky.
That much was confirmed by Holden, who also insisted the changes were not driven by the recent European ‘Murphy’ ruling on the use of foreign decoders to show English Premier League games in UK pubs.
He said Sky had simply held off unveiling its new prices until the Murphy judgement provided clarity on foreign decoders and the right of the EPL to protect its copyright.
As always when it comes to Sky, the trade will greet its latest announcement with scepticism: pubs have been on the receiving end of hefty bills for too long for their owners to suddenly change their views.
There is also the possibility of Sky putting its prices up in time for the start of the 2012/2013 football season, albeit the firm elected to freeze prices last summer.
But even though its latest discounts will not be enjoyed by all, the firm at least deserves credit for easing the burden on some.