I, like many other, got an email from Sky’s streaming platform Fan Pass on Friday afternoon. I’ve been a semi-regular user of the service, taking advantage of my decent internet connection and ChromeCast to watch the sport I wanted to – when it was on the main Sky Sports channels 1 – 4. In the last year I have spent about $600 following the misfortunes of the Auckland Blues, watching the Stirling Sports Premiership and even occasionally dipping into the simulcast Champions League and Europa League games that BeIn Sports allow Sky to stream.
It wasn’t a perfect service, particularly if you are a devotee of the round-ball game. Football isn’t a money maker for Sky, unless you count the $300,000 they are paid to screen the Stirling Sports Premiership. That means that often games are pushed out to the Pop Up channels, which weren’t available on Fan Pass. There was always some hope that it would be, particularly after most of Euro 2016 was shown on Pop Up because Sky didn’t know the broadcast times of a June tournament whose fixtures had been set December of the previous year.
Fan Pass worked though. You could check the schedule and buy a day, week or recurring monthly pass. I was a gateway user. First, the odd day to catch a game. Then a week, after looking at the schedule. Eventually I signed up for the month pass. All in, it cost $55.99, which was about $20 cheaper than paying for an installation, Sky Box and a contact would have done. When my little boy was born, and my family went down to one salary, I went back to weekly passes – purchasing them only when I had the personal funds to do so.
From May 24th, Sky are ditching the Day and Week passes entirely. If you’re on the $55.99 monthly pass, your price for access won’t change until early 2018. However, if you want access to Sky Sport 1 – 4, you’ll have to pay $99.99 a month – or for six months access, you’ll have to pay $329.99. Up front.
For me, that’s less of a Fan Pass and more of a hard pass. If I couldn’t afford the $55.99 a month pass at the minute, there’s little chance of affording a $99.99 pass or ponying up over $300 for six months. But don’t worry, Sky have a wide range of contracts for wired connections to their services – including no joining fee and no payment until 3rd of June, at which point you’ll pay $49.91 for Sky Basic and $29.90 for Sky Sports. $79.81 in total.
That offer ends today by the way. Get in quick.
Wait, did streaming 4 channels just become more expensive than hard-wiring in 50+ channels? How does that make any sense?
I get it. Sky have been whomped hard by disconnections, particularly after the 2015 World Cup. They want more people to sign up for the installation, the contract, the disconnection fees – all of their core business model. The problem being is that it’s a model that looks increasingly creaky in the age of video on demand and streaming services. Trying to price customers into choosing something they had the choice of, but didn’t choose, doesn’t seem all that smart. The furious responses to the announcement seem to corroborate that.
Fan Pass worked. It was popular with those who can’t commit to 12 month contracts for whatever reason. It used the technology we already had, the broadband that people already paid for, and dovetailed neatly into a world of NetFlix, Lightbox, Neon and one where things like the NBA, MLS, NRL and RugbyPass all exist as viable models of content delivery (although not, legally, in New Zealand).
There’s also the irony of Sky being paid to broadcast the Stirling Sports Premiership, failing to broadcast the semi-final and threatening Patrick Barnes after he streamed it himself, only to attempt to destroy their own streaming service a matter of weeks later. Slow clap, lads.
It’s been pointed out to me that Sky’s offers of $150 credit or free connection or 6 months discount means that, in the short term, it costs less than streaming. That’s true, but in the long term the $78 bucks I couldn’t afford now isn’t going to be $78 I can afford when the offer runs out. Or the sliding scale of disconnection fees, ranging from $268 downwards – depending on how many months you have remaining on your contract.
It’s also been said that sport isn’t like Netflix, in that you don’t sign up for Netflix just to binge watch one show. Except, of course, you can do that if you want and Netflix are cool with that. It’s just that at pricing between $9.99 and $15.99 per month, people don’t mind keeping their subscription.
Like many people, I’m now going from giving Sky $600 a year to giving Sky $0 a year as a result of the changes to Fan Pass. I was a customer, now I’m not a customer. And given the sparse nature of football coverage on Sky Sport NZ, I suspect I won’t be the only one. If they thought viewing figures for football were bad already, I think they’re about to get a lot worse.
There’s a bright side to this though. The English Football League this week announced that for just over $200, supporters of teams from the Championship, League One and League Two will be able to live-stream every single game their team plays in the 2017 – 18 season. And Portsmouth F.C got promoted this morning, as Champions. Play up, lads!
What do you reckon about the changes? Feel free to add your own comments and argue with Tim, who always shows up when we write about Sky. Hi Tim!
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.