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Sky Sports price rise: is live TV sports coverage worth the cost?

Angry sports fan

From 1 June, Sky Sports will go up in price by £1 a month. Virgin Media customers will see a £2-a-month hike for Sky Sports too. Do you think it’s worth the cost?

Last month Sky announced it will increase the cost of all but one of its TV packages from 1 June: Sky Sports is up by £1, Variety by £1.50, Family by £3 and Sky Movies by 50p. Sky normally announces price rises for September, but has broken form this year by bringing it forward. This is in time for the Euro 2016 qualifiers coverage in June and the new football season in August, but without the live UEFA Champions League games – these will be shown on BT Sport.

Virgin Media customers won’t escape a price rise either – in fact, they’ll have to pay £2 extra for Sky Sports. So why is Virgin putting up its prices too? The cable provider says it has to pay its satellite counterpart more money because Sky will pay around 70% more for next year’s Premier League TV rights.

It makes sense; if providers are paying more, then the cost is passed on to anyone using their services. But the latest is only 10 months after the last price rise in September 2014. So we decided to track the cost of getting Sky’s sports channels over more than 10 years…

Sky Sports cost since 2004

From June, Sky customers will pay at least £47 a month for the cheapest TV-only package (Sky Sports with Original Bundle), rising to £69.90 with phone and unlimited broadband (or £62.40 with a 2GB download limit) – that’s before adding extra channels. The cheapest package is £16 more a month – £192 a year – compared with September 2004, when the cheapest Sky Sports 1 + 2 bundle cost £31 with the minimum ‘2 mix’ channel pack. That 51.6% rise far outstrips the cumulative inflation rate of 28.5%.


We asked Sky to explain. It said:

‘We work hard to make Sky the best value entertainment choice for subscribers. Sky Sports will offer an unrivalled choice of top quality sport. We’ll also bring more of the shows everyone’s talking about to Sky Box Sets. On average, bills will rise by less than £3 per month.’

Avid football fans who don’t want to miss a match also need BT Sport – £13.50 from Sky or free for BT broadband customers. BT Sport is also included in the cheapest broadband, phone, TV and Sky Sports packages from Virgin Media (Big Kahuna, £58.99 for 12 months) and BT (£46.49, but no Formula 1).

Read why the cost of Sky Sports is going up on Which? Tech Daily.

Tips to save money on Sky Sports

  • Cancel – at least temporarily: You could cancel your sports package altogether, or simply drop your Sky Sports bundle when less is shown of what you want to watch – you’ll save at least £50 dropping it in June and July when there’s no Premier League. Changing your TV package should only take a quick phone call or visit to your online account, as on the Sky and Virgin Media websites.
  • Stream Sky Sports on Now TV’s streaming serviceThere’s no contract and it could be cheaper, costing £6.99 a day or £10.99 for a week for Sky Sports 1-5, F1 and News. Use Sky’s fixture list to plan a good day to start – for example, we found starting a one-week pass on 13 December would cover international cricket, golf and South Africa Sevens rugby, plus Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United football matches.

How do you watch live TV coverage of your favourite sports? Do you think Sky Sports is worth the cost?

Nick says:
28 April 2015

Sky Sports is rubbish. It is full of adverts interupting the sport. Adverts 90% Sport 10%. It is full of repeats and stuff that nobody is interested in. I find it is an expensive way to watch adverts!

Clive says:
28 April 2015

I am a sky sports subscriber and a regular premier league match goer (Chelsea). I have been annoyed by sky using their near monopoly to continually put up prices, but on the plus side the extra money to clubs means that my match ticket prices have not increased for 3 years and wont be going up next year either. The season after next sky are going to be paying a massive amount more to the premier league as a result of panicking and putting in a hugely inflated bid after bt got champions league, so I expect a big increase from sky then (West Ham are actually reducing their season ticket prices that year). Now football is split between 2 “competitors” I also have to subscribe to bt sport.I don’t have BT broadband as their customer service is appalling.

I have NO interest in football at all and would dearly like to subscribe to SKY Sports for the sports I want to watch, mainly, Rugby, Golf and Tennis.

I object strongly to the escalation in SKY prices due to its football bids.

SKY can also be arrogant, eg, the recent changes to the format of programmes recorded and to be recorded, a good idea to put most recent at the top BUT why separate recored and scheduled?

Otherwise I think SKY has been very beneficial in providing viewers a wide choice of viewing.

What we don’t know is how commercially viable a “sports except football” channel would be. At the moment, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf and others are carried on the back of the revenues from the football audience. The contracts between the broadcasters and the football governing bodies and those of the other sports all combine to restrict open market competition. The fees charged to outsiders like the BBC for showing highlights or selected matches are also driven up by this imperfect market. As previous comments have demonstrated, there is plenty of elasticity of demand in screening football matches – there are enough dedicated soccer fans who “must have” it and are able to pay more and more for it. Sky has become so dominant that only the entry into the market of a company of the scale of BT could hope to bear down on consumer prices. Unfortunately, it seems merely to have driven up the cost of access to the content through the bidding wars and the greed of the sports bodies. Only mass consumer resistance could now impact on these sky-high prices.

Sky high Mr Ward? Play on words perhaps but you are absolutely right. A demonstration of corporate and shareholder greed. A mass exodus could sort them out or even motivate them to be more competitive (pseudonym for ‘less greedy’) – shame Lidl or Aldi don’t join the market, it worked for food, maybe it could work for Satellite TV!

Yes . . . except for getting the satellites up there in the first place, of course, it’s not exactly rocket science that would justify massive returns. Now that most properties have a dish, huge profits are available to any company that can acquire the content and they can spend their time packaging it in appealing market segments. Bundle gaming, really. The key words in the foregoing are “acquire the content” – that’s where the monopoly bites: deep pockets required.

Alan says:
3 May 2015

I have been paying for a Sky variety package + Sports for about 10 years ago and I am fed up with the way the monthly cost is continually increasing. I only took the sports package so I could watch Rugby Union and League plus some cricket.Now I can see English rugby union on BT Sport (I have their broadband so get it included) but I do not want to get rid of Sky Sports because I still like to watch Rugby League and cricket. When the latest increase came through for June I rang Sky and complained. They said they had increased my package with things like Sky Go and Sky Catch Up but I told them I could not use this as because of my location (4 miles from the telephone exchange in North Devon) my broadband speed ( 1 Mbps if lucky!) was too slow to use this so I was being charged for something I could never use. I think they should charge for the basic package and then you add on any extras you want to use, I certainly would not want football of any description.
By complaining I have got £10 a month off my package (only for 10 months though so I will have to complain again next year)

M.Cresswell says:
3 May 2015

The situation is worse than you say for those who do not want to watch football. We are now deprived of Rugby Premiership and Women’s tennis unless a subscription to BT is taken out. It seems to me that ‘competition’ is BAD for the customer who is being fleeced.

paul says:
5 May 2015

Sky shows little or no regard for it’s customers.The recent increases are in reality giving us nothing more, despite clever marketing speak from Sky. We are unable to take Virgin where we live otherwise we would leave. Every year or so I ring Sky threaten to leave and get a temporary discount, this does get a little tiresome haggling with their call centre staff. We have sports and HD and it’s incredible they can charge for HD but when you use “match choice” or “football first” the broadcast is in SD – unbelievable!

The option is to vote with your feet and not subscribe. If enough dissatisfied customers did that Sky might change their tactics. However, whilst we moan but pay up presumably we are not sufficiently motivated. I imagine their psychology is to just put the prices up below a threshold at which mutiny would take place.

I agree. Tesco seems happy enough to have rather unhappy customers as long as they remain customers.

Harish says:
6 May 2015

These days most of the people has high end android smartphones or iPhones. So use softwares or apps like Mobdro, Showbox, Movietube and DTv India to watch and stream live sports and movies.
No need to pay for any sky or virgin media or BT subscription.

I don’t believe “most people” do. Where I live, most people enjoy family viewing through their Sky box on a large screen TV.

I sometimes wonder whther the Sky and BT executives actually believe that people who have the time to watch two-leg football matches and five-day cricket tests also have the money to go with it. Hence they whack up the rates and in doing so they are constantly pushing up the point of resistance that is the audience’s tipping point. What they lose on the helter-skelter they make up on the dodgems.

Since 2000 Sky subscriptions have gone up 95%, before the latest increase. Double the rate of inflation over the same period. Now we are being asked to pay more because they bid so much for Premier Football, which I don’t watch!
What is more I have to pay for other bundles (which I don’t want, like ‘original’ or ‘variety’) just to get the ‘sports’ package, -my main interests are cricket and golf.
There is clearly too little competition in this market and their prices are extortionate.

With enough pressure they will hopefully divide sport up eventually. When the Ryder Cup was on last Sky Sports 4 became ‘Sky Sports Ryder Cup’ – much better.

Eventually I predict they’ll be a ‘Sky Sports Premier League’, ‘Sky Sports Golf’, ‘Sky Sports Tennis’ etc etc, that’ll allow simplified pricing and a more customisable package, something that Sky greatly lacks at present.

When there’s no live game to show they’ll be endless re-runs, much like through the summer (‘Premier League Years’ over and over and over again).

joel says:
12 May 2015

We already pay a fortune for what should be free as we have the same amount of adverts as itv and we pay them nothing as their revinue comes from the adverts.
I have started to see more repeats on sky than anything else and i am at a stage weather to cancel the whole damb thing and just stick to freeview as we already pay a fortune to the bbc for their masts.
I feel that sky is charging far too much for what they offer.
If it wasent for my wife i would has canceled it a long time ago as my parents did!

I enjoy watching sport and pay for Sky Sports via Virgin Media, however I do not watch football. I am aware that I have to pay for the obcene amounts of money that is paid to football as part of my subscription to SkySport. I would like to know how much my Sky Sports TV would cost without football?
Lets start a campagn to separate football from other sports, so that football fans pay the correct amount to watch football

Barry says:
9 June 2015

Absolutely agree with M.
M, if you put the petition up I will sign it and so will my wife!

Paul C says:
26 May 2015

I only watch Rugby League, making it even more expensive. It’s rather galling to have a rise due to the cost of football which I can’t abide

I have just had an e-mail from BT sport upping my monthly bill from £16.50 to £19.99 a quite unjustifiable price rise caused by the madness of football.

I have NO interest in football and only watch BT Sports Tennis and Rugby.

In our hi-tech age surely it is possible to opt into ONLY a few sports NOT all of them and especially the corrupt and venal world of football.

Plasticpaddy says:
30 July 2015

You can phone Bt and stop this payment, it’s for there eufa champions league coverage if your not into it don’t pay it, we are not !

If football fans had to pay a premium for the football content then more would turn to pirate streams. Sky charge what they think the majority of customers will pay. Sad fact of life but true. I don’t pay for 1s or 0s anymore whether it be music films sports maps. Currently with sky I’ve got 60% and 100 towards bill which gives me 5 free months so guess what. .. I will cancel after 5 months I’m happy to watch pirate streams till sky give me another free deal. Every now and then sky panic and offer deals like confetti you have to catch these deals

cancelled today got home checked my account they have offered me 50% off for 12 months

This comment was removed at the request of the user

It’s very straightforward ..go to the section on streaming boxes and streaming devices on the Which site and pick one up of the best buys ..firestick is superb ..fire tv is superb as other streaming boxes …see what you can learn from there about Kodi /Sports Devil and MOBDRO and although the quality is not the same and it is not 100 % live ( a minute or so behind ) you can get all the sports what you want ..the movies are faultless way beyond sky movies package … They are murdering football between them BT and Sky ..yes the streaming pictures are not the quality of Sky TV obviously that is why you are paying so much but it’s a whole lot of fun and stops you being dependent on them