The insane economics of Sky Now TV

A few months ago, after one price rise too many and a waning interest in top-flight football, I decided to cancel my subscription to Sky Sports.

I still get the urge to watch the odd game, and so this weekend – with my once-beloved West Ham giving title-chasing Liverpool a hoof for their money – I decided to investigate Sky Now TV, the broadcaster’s internet TV service. After ten minutes, I was left scratching my head at the sheer insanity of its pricing.

Even though I still have a regular Sky+ box sat under my telly, there is no way to watch Sky Sports on demand via satellite – you either sign up for a Sports bundle, which costs £43.50 per month, or you watch a blue screen where the sports channels used to be.

You can, however, pay for day passes to Sky Sports via Now TV. This gives you 24 hours of access to all of the Sky Sports channels, which is streamed over the internet to a variety of devices, including the Apple TV, games consoles, PCs, tablets or smartphones.

I bought mine via the Apple TV, making a £10 in-app purchase, at which point the economic lunacy of Sky’s offering struck me. Sky could easily let me switch on those sports channels via my Sky+ box on a pay-per-view basis, just like it does for the big boxing matches, at next-to-no cost for the broadcaster. It simply has to flick a switch.

Instead, it’s handing a 30% cut of the fee for in-app payments to Apple, and then picking up the bandwidth bills for the gigabytes of traffic it takes to not only stream the content from its end, but at my end too, because Sky is also my “unlimited” broadband provider.

That’s not the craziest part of Sky’s pricing strategy, however. Sky sells its own Now TV boxes, too, and if you go to the Sky Now website you can order a Sports Bundle which gets you the hardware and five sports day passes for £35. So instead of ordering the £10 Sports channels via my Apple TV, it’s actually cheaper for me to order a new set-top box every five matches, as I’ll only pay £7 per pass!

Which is exactly what I’ll be doing, until someone in Sky’s strategy department comes to their senses…

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