Sky Sports News pulled from Freeview

Image caption,
Sky Sports News was launched on Freeview in 2002

BSkyB has announced that Sky Sports News is to become a pay-TV channel, after eight years of being available on Freeview.

Sky said the move would allow the channel to benefit from "continued growth in subscription revenues".

The move would take place "later this year", Sky added. From then the channel will only be available via Sky, Virgin Media or Talk Talk TV.

The 24-hour sports news channel will be replaced on Freeview by Sky 3+1.

"Sky Sports News has been a great success over the last 12 years and we have big ambitions to make it even better," said Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports.

"As part of a subscription service, customers can look forward to expanded coverage and the launch of Europe's first HD sports news service."

Media analyst Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent, said Sky's move was "probably quite sensible".

"It is important to see the context - there is a broad, emerging consensus that in the multi-media era it is insane to give content away for nothing," he added.

"Sky is therefore not the only company to reach the conclusion that there is only a finite length of time that you can use something such as Sky Sports News as a loss leader."

Regulatory dispute

In March this year, media regulator Ofcom ruled that Sky must reduce the wholesale price it charges rivals to carry its pay-per-view sports channels Sky Sports 1 and 2.

Sky and Ofcom subsequently agreed an interim deal at the end of April that means Virgin Media, BT and Top-up TV are able to offer the two channels at a reduced price - but with the difference in cost put into an escrow account pending an appeal by Sky against Ofcom's ruling.

If Sky wins its appeal, the escrow money will be awarded to the satellite broadcaster. If it loses, the rivals will get it.

Sky's appeal to the Competition Appeals Tribunal could take more than a year to be resolved.

It was also announced this week that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation wishes to buy full control of BSkyB. News Corporation currently owns a 30.1% stake in BSkyB.

News Corporation has been moving away from free content in its newspaper operations.

Readers of the online editions of its Times and Sunday Times newspapers will have to pay to view the websites from the end of this month.

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