Tag Archives: BSkyB

Rupert Murdoch claims to own the ‘Sky’ in ‘Skype’ – stupidest law suit of the year award

I have to confess that when I first heard the news that Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB has launched a legal challenge to Skype I thought April Fool’s Day had come early, not least because the basis of the case is that the company claims to own the “Sky” in “Skype”.

But it transpired that the case was genuine and that BSkyB has been ensconced in a legal battle with Skype for the last five years. The news only emerged after a brief reference to the case in the 250-page document announcing Skype’s Wall Street flotation.

A Sky spokesman said: “The key contention in the dispute is that the brands ‘Sky’ and ‘Skype’ will be considered confusingly similar by members of the public.”

To which I can only reply that I have never linked the two and can’t think of anyone who has. But it seems that the EU has upheld Sky’s complaint and, should Skype lose its upcoming appeal, the company may be forced to change its name.

One wonders if others who have had the temerity to use the word “sky” in their work will now fall foul of the Dirty Digger.

Update: BSkyB have been in touch to point out that the dispute concerns several trademark applications filed by Skype, including, but not limited to, television-related goods and services. Were Skype’s name to appear on a set-top box it’s fair to say that Sky would have a better case. But I’m sure most people could make the distinction.

Sky may claim their customer research suggests members of the public would be confused by the similarity but the key question is this: did any of them consider ‘Sky’ and ‘Skype’ similar before they were asked?


BBC bows to newspaper concerns, delays mobile apps

British state broadcaster BBC has delayed launching mobile applications delivering its news and sport free to devices like Apple’s iPhone after newspapers expressed concern about direct competition. The Newspaper Publishers Association had asked the BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, to examine proposals it feared could harm efforts by commercial rivals to succeed with their own mobile offerings. The BBC Trust will now examine the proposals. It did not give any timetable, but the earliest it was likely to discuss the matter is at a meeting late next month. The BBC, which receives a guaranteed GBP 3.6bn each year (USD 5.4bn) in license fees paid by householders, has come under fierce attack from broadcaster BSkyB and other commercial rivals exposed to a severe advertising slump. The amount of free content the BBC already makes available online has discouraged many newspapers from attempting to charge readers for content on the Web. Earlier this month, the BBC signaled a retreat from some commercial operations to focus on core services, bowing to pressure from rivals and ahead of a general election almost certain to result in public spending cuts


Virgin Media signs video Web deal with Brightcove

Cable TV operator Virgin Media has chosen online video publisher Brightcove to provide and support short videos for its more than 11 million monthly website visitors. The two firms said in a statement that Virgin Media would use the Brightcove platform to carry its online news, music and entertainment content alongside adverts. The Nasdaq-listed British cable firm, which has recently launched an online music video service, said Virginmedia.com would be at the heart of its entertainment line-up. Media companies around the world are increasingly making their content available online, to reach new users and the advertising money that is available on the Web. Brightcove has said it has also seen an increase in companies asking about their services since the start of the economic downturn, as they look to launch new services but hold back the costs. Brightcove, which is privately held, already has partnerships with British broadcasters ITV Channel 4, Five, BSkyB and STV. The firm last week announced a deal with Turner Broadcasting to support its content throughout Europe.


BT opens up its ducts to broadband fibre rivals

BT has said it will allow rival broadband companies to use its tunnels to lay their own superfast fibre network

All broadband suppliers will be allowed to lay their own fibre cables in BT’s tunnels, the company has said. Opening up its “ducts” could potentially encourage the development of a superfast broadband network and save rivals billions of pounds that would have been needed to dig up the nation’s pavements.

It is also in line with calls from the Conservative Party, rivals such as TalkTalk and BSkyB and also with European movements to encourage free access.

Jeremy Hunt, shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport, had said that a Conservative government would break BT’s monopoly on the network to promote a nationwide broadband target speed of 100mbps, and agreed with TalkTalk and Sky that access to ducts would allow a more effective market to operate.

BT, however, has denied that it has simply caved in to political pressure: “We told [industry regulator] Ofcom last year we’re willing to provide open access to our ducts and poles and we are working with them on how to achieve it. Other companies already have access to our exchanges so we’re relaxed about providing them with another form of access as well,” said the company’s chief executive Ian Livingstone.

Questions, however, remain over the extent to which BT’s rivals will really want to lay their own cables , even in BT ducts; while urban areas may appear commercially attractive, BT is itself laying down some fibre which other companies are allowed to use themselves. In rural areas, there is unlikely to be an appetite from new companies because there will be an insufficient return on the substantial investment required. TalkTalk issued a statement saying that “We’re at the forefront of the debate about how best to provide super fast broadband to our customers. We’re talking to BT and Ofcom and we’re considering a range of options including our own fibre trial.”

The Conservative Party has said that it would use any underspend from the part of the BBC’s licence fee that is currently earmarked to help fund digital switchover. When that is completed after 2012, the Party would consider matched funding or loans to try to encourage a more widespread high-speed broadband network


Sky loses challenge over ITV stake

Broadcasting giant BSkyB has lost its challenge at the Court of Appeal over the Government’s decision to force it to reduce its 17.9% stake in ITV.Sky began its legal challenge after a Competition Commission finding that the group’s shareholding gave it influence over ITV’s strategy in a way that restricted the market. The Government ordered the media group to ditch more than half the holding – down to below 7.5%.

A challenge at the Competition Appeal Tribunal was unsuccessful and three appeal judges ruled that the direction to reduce the shareholding must stand. Lord Justice Lloyd, giving the ruling of the court, refused permission to take the case to the Supreme Court but Sky can apply directly for a hearing.

The judge said the appeals by Sky and Virgin Media arose from the acquisition by Sky in 2006 of 696 million shares in ITV. A spokesman for Sky said after the hearing: “BSkyB notes the decision by the Court of Appeal in relation to BSkyB’s shareholding in ITV. We will review the judgment and order carefully and consider next steps in due course.”

Shortly before the share deal, Virgin had announced an offer worth about 122p a share whereas the Sky acquisition was at 135p a share, 17% above the share price of the day. The Government referred Sky’s deal to the Competition Commission, which found that the acquisition had created a merger situation and this was expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition which could operate against the public interest.

Sky won its appeal over the number of people controlling media outlets serving UK audiences, with the appeal judges reinstating the Commission’s conclusions that the acquisition would not operate against the public interest on this issue.


BT aims to undercut Sky on TV sport viewing packages

BT says it is ready to enter a price war with Sky over the price charged for fans to watch premium sports events, including football and cricket, on TV.

The telecoms firm is awaiting the outcome of an Ofcom probe, examining whether Sky must drop the wholesale price it charges rivals for content. BT Vision would aim to charge about £15 a month for Sky Sports 1, about £10 cheaper than Sky currently charges. The outcome of the investigation by the regulator will be known in March. A spokesman for BT told the BBC that there would be a benefit to the viewing public as they would be getting more choice.

‘Effective competition’

The Ofcom inquiry into pay TV is also looking at the price Sky charges rivals for access to Sky Movies. If Ofcom rules that Sky must cut its wholesale prices it means that the likes of BT and Virgin Media could pass on to any price cuts to their customers. BT would look to introduce a new price structure from the start of the 2010/11 football season.

When it launched its investigation in June, Ofcom said it believed “requiring Sky to make its premium channels available to other retailers on a wholesale basis is the most appropriate way of ensuring fair and effective competition”. BT and Virgin have struggled to make a dent in Sky’s viewing figures. Sky has 9.5m subscribers, Virgin has 3.7m and BT Vision has 436,000.

Loss on packages

Virgin Media currently charges between £16.50 and £24 per month for Sky Sports 1 depending on a customer’s TV package. The firm – formerly known as NTL – said it made a loss on every sports package sold because of Sky’s wholesale prices and also the need to remain competitive. “Ofcom’s proposals to cut wholesale prices for Sky Sports aren’t about subsidising Sky’s competitors,” Neil Berkett, chief executive of Virgin Media, told the BBC.

He said it was more about “creating a competitive market”, and that Ofcom had the means to “bring premium film and sport to millions more people at much lower prices”.


Sky ends paid-content talks with Google’s YouTube

BSkyB has ended talks with Google about the opportunity for its pay-TV content to be made available on YouTube.

BSkyB was exploring the possibility of uploading full-length shows, such as ‘Soccer AM’, onto the video-sharing site to allow users to watch for a fee, but has decided against the move. Google executive David Eun recently confirmed to Reuters that the company was looking at charging subscriptions as an option to secure more long-form content. While Sky will continue to offer free short video clips of its shows on YouTube, it makes a great deal of its TV service available online through its paid-for SkyPlayer platform. Sky TV subscribers can access this content for free.

Non Sky customers can rent individual programmes to watch through SkyPlayer or alternatively they can subscribe solely to the online service. A Sky spokesman told Brand Republic: “The pay model is at the heart of our business and allows us to invest significantly in high-quality, distinctive content. “While we do offer some content on a free basis via both the TV and the web, we have no plans to offer long-form content online outside of the paid-for model.”

The news comes after Rupert Murdoch and his executives at News Corporation, the majority owner of BSkyB, labelled Google and other news aggregation sites “parasites”, “content kleptomaniacs”, “vampires” and “tech tapeworms”. It also comes as Murdoch attempts to put his online newspaper assets, which include The Times and The Sun, behind subscriber paywalls. Google was not available to comment at time of publication.


BBC to reduce web and digital services after analogue switch-off

Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, has said the corporation would scale back its web operations and put its future digital TV and radio output under the spotlight after the analogue switch-off in 2012.

Speaking at the Voice of the Listener & Viewer Conference in London last night, Thompson did not outline where the cuts would be made but told the audience: “Expect to see reductions in some kinds of programmes and content – a look for example at the current scope of our website – and a close examination of the future of our service portfolios once switchover has been achieved.”

While admitting that it was important for the BBC to recognise its boundaries, Thompson used the speech to hit back at the rising number of attacks on the BBC, singling out comments made by BSkyB chief executive James Murdoch about it being “sinister” and “Orwellian” during the summer.

 He blamed such attacks on the fact that newspapers were now competing against the corporation on the web. He also noted that commercial media groups were not averse to using “indirect pressure through friendly politicians” to support them, possibly a veiled comment in reaction to Conservative Party media policy that would curb the BBC’s influence.

Thompson started his speech with a fierce defence of the BBC’s place in society, dismissing the argument that if it were to disappear, commercial broadcasters would step up and fill the gap in quality content, such as ‘The Proms’, ‘The Reith Lectures’ or the political satire ‘The Thick of It’.

He also vowed that the corporation would continue to stand up for creative freedom, in spite of what he called “a vigorous attempt in the press and elsewhere to suggest that strong comedy and satire are somehow unacceptable in the public space and are evidence that the BBC has lost its traditional values”.


Conservative Party proposes dismantling UK media ownership rules – all tasty media morcels to be snapped up next June

The Conservatives plan to abolish local cross-media ownership rules and strip Ofcom of policy-making responsibilities, according to a report. The Daily Telegraph reported this morning that shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt blames the commercial media industry’s current crisis on “heavy-handed regulation”.

“It is why no major international players have come forward to buy ITV and major US networks are not interested in investing in Britain,” he told the Telegraph. “They are driven away by the top-down, paternalistic regulations which are strangling our creative media industries. We will strip away the regulations.”

Under the Tories, Ofcom would be reduced to making judgments in areas such as “decency, impartiality and taste”. Hunt will expand on his theme in a speech on Thursday, when he is due to address The Media Festival in Manchester. Ofcom has been consulting the industry on proposals to relax local cross-media ownership rules so that the only remaining restriction is on ownership of local newspapers (with a 50% or more share of the local market); a local radio station; and the regional Channel 3 (ITV) licence. It is unclear whether the Tory proposals would go further than this.

Hunt also spoke to Sky News yesterday on the subject of the BBC licence fee, signalling that if the Tories win the next election they will be tough in the next review of the fee in 2012.  “Times are very tough. We are not ruling out freezing the licence fee, or cutting it,” he said.

He put the spotlight on the cost of the BBC’s digital channels, BBC Three and BBC Four. “The BBC needs to make a better case for investment in some of its new digital channels, which have very low audiences but do cost a lot of money. If we win the election, there will be discussions we will be having with the BBC.” The Tories may revisit the current Government’s review of “crown jewels” sporting events which must be shown on free-to-air channels, which is likely to please Rupert Murdoch. Sky is set to lose out from the decision to put The Ashes on the list of protected events.


Murdoch thinks he can ‘do another Sky’ with his paid for content online charging plans

Media Week’s Steve Barrett hits the spot with regard to Wapping’s very  own modern day Australian version of King Canute when he argues:

“There must have been some groans at Wapping in May when Rupert Murdoch pronounced that his newspapers would be charging for online content within a year.  Whether that was the News Corporation chairman’s plan or not, Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and Tony Blair at Number 10 have shown that revealing self-imposed deadlines in public can make you a hostage to fortune and is invariably counterproductive.

Hence, it was no surprise when Murdoch admitted last week he “can’t promise” the deadline will be met, although he wasn’t forthcoming about the reasons why. My understanding is that News International is trying to set up an online pay platform to bring together content from third-party providers in addition to material from The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times.

The service will mirror online what Sky, in which News Corp is the biggest shareholder, does on its TV electronic programme guide. The EPG provides access to Sky TV, as well as channels from other TV firms. TV media owners pay Sky for a listing on it, encryption and regionalisation. Sky pays the media owner a fee for every subscriber signed up and a share of revenue if it sells the advertising.

Users would buy News International content and add on other packages as desired. So you might buy The Times and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph, which News International has been in discussions with. The system works because it avoids multiple pay platforms, which dilute the user-friendliness of the purchasing process and don’t exploit economies of scale.

The downside for third-party media owners is that News International owns the customer relationship and will presumably be able to market further services to the user base, which is no doubt complicating negotiations and technical integration.

Other media consortia are looking at similar group charging initiatives, so no wonder it is taking more than a few months to put together. My sense is that News International and its competitors’ online charging efforts will be one of the biggest rolling media stories of 2010 – but the offers won’t be trivial to put in place.