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BSkyB to Offer Sky Sports Channels Online-Only for $15.80 Per Day

BSkyB
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

CEO Jeremy Darroch says that the planned offer targets people who don't subscribe to the company's pay TV service and is priced to avoid cord cutting.

LONDON -- U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB said Thursday that it will make all of its Sky Sports content available on an online-only basis to people who aren't pay TV subscribers later this year for $15.80 (£9.99) per day.

The company, of which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. owns 39 percent, will offer Premier League soccer matches and all other sports content from all six of its sports channels online for 24 hours for that price, CEO Jeremy Darroch said during an earnings conference call. This will mark the first time that consumers will be able to watch BSkyB's premium sports content on a pay-as-you go basis without a pay TV subscription.

The offer will be available via standalone online TV service Now TV, which the company launched late last year with a movie offering.

BSkyB earlier in the day said that Now TV signed up 25,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2012, the same number of traditional pay TV subscribers that the company added during the period. It is designed to expand the company's reach beyond its current subscriber base as traditional pay TV user growth continues to slow in a maturing market with increased competition.

The addition of the sports programming on Now TV will come "in the coming months" following beta testing, which started in December, Darroch said. It is expected to attract mainly people who want to watch major sports events, such as the Masters golf tournament, a big rugby or cricket match or a Formula One grand prix.

While many fans are expected to find the price tag too high, analysts had predicted the online sports offer would be expensive to avoid encouraging cord cutting and protect BSkyB's monthly Sky Sports subscription revenue. They see the web service mostly as a chance for BSkyB to allow non-subscribers to sample its sports offers.   

"Now TV is a way for us to broaden" BSkyB's customer reach, Darroch said. The company hopes that the Sky Sports offer on Now TV "will draw more people into our sports services," he added.

Darroch said Thursday that the company has so far seen "no cannibalization" from Now TV in terms of Sky Movies subscribers, but the company will continue to watch trends.
 
BSkyB has seen growth in new digital and on-demand offers. Its Sky Go service, which allows current BSkyB subscribers to watch content on mobile devices, saw unique users increase 46 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter to 3.1 million. Darroch said one of the biggest hits has been Ricky Gervais-created travel documentary show An Idiot Abroad, which drew 850,000 on-demand views across its latest season.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai