Sky: Ten million subscribers, how many pricing combinations?
A big announcement from BSkyB HQ this week, with big numbers attached: Sky now has 10 million subscribers, hitting its long-term target set back in August 2004. According to the figures, Sky is installed in 36% of UK and Irish households, and reaches 25 million people. So there’s a good chance that you’ve got a Sky box sitting under your telly - but how much do you pay for it?
The answer? It's different for everyone. Very different. Sky currently advertises a TV, broadband and calls package for under £20 per month, but Sky’s pricing is incredibly inconsistent, and it’s unlikely many will pay the advertised price.
For starters, few subscribers will be satisfied with the basic bundle (consisting of a handful of entertainment channels (Sky1, Living, Bravo, FX), capped broadband, and an evening and weekend call package), and will choose to pay for extra features. Box prices and set up charges vary, and there are various differing offers for new, current and returning customers. Throw in online-only offers, half-price sports and movies, and free HD and it all gets pretty confusing.
Even so, we were surprised to be told this week by an avid Bitterwallet reader that they pay a massive £116 per month to Sky. Could that be possible?
Sky’s current bundle offer gets you the Variety channel pack, Broadband Lite and Talk Freetime (including free UK evening and weekend calls, but excluding line rental) for £19.50 per month. But the broadband package is capped at 2GB, so you’re probably going to need to upgrade to Broadband Unlimited, which costs an extra £7.50 per month if you’re a Sky Talk customer. And if you want an unlimited calls package, add another £5 for Talk Unlimited.
Let’s not forget that Sky’s calls packages don’t include line rental, which you’ll need to buy from BT or Sky. Get it from Sky and it’ll cost an extra £11.25 per month. And what about that HD-ready TV sitting in the corner of your living room? Well, if you actually want it to show HD content, you’ll need to stump up another £10.25. We’re now up to £53.50 per month in total, maths fans.
Many customers will indulge in additional channel packages. You can add all of the entertainment channel packs for another £5. Movies costs £16 and sports costs £20.25, but you can get both premium packs for the discounted price of £27.50. If you want to watch all available Premier League matches, you’ll also need ESPN at an extra £9 per month. Adding all of those channels brings our monthly total to £95, or £1,140 per year.
As for our reader who pays £116 per month, it’s easy to hike your subscription up to that level by adding extra Sky Talk calling features (including call waiting and ring back) and Sky Multiroom. All of these figures are based on costs that Sky say will apply from January 2011, following the VAT rise. It may seem excessive, but it's not unusual for a large family to cough up so much money every month.
What those numbers don’t take into account are the seemingly endless combinations of offers that some subscribers are able to take advantage of. Sky customer service advisors have a set amount of deals to offer to customers each week, with the majority held by the retentions department (there’s an insightful note from a Sky insider over at MSE). It’s cheaper for Sky to retain existing customers than to recruit new ones, so if you ring up to cancel or downgrade your package, there’s a chance you’ll be offered a reduced price deal. But Sky also make offers to customers via outbound calls and mailings. Whether or not you receive these offers seems to depend on circumstance and luck.
Compare two more avid Bitterwallet readers, both subscribing to Sky’s variety, sports and HD packs. One pays £49 per month, which seems to be the advertised price, pre-VAT rise. The other was offered free HD for 12 months and half price sports for three months, and pays just £29.50. Meanwhile, people who’ve recently left Sky are currently being sent a mailer offering a half price 12 month deal plus a £50 Marks & Spencer voucher.
Many of us pay our monthly bills without questioning them, but there's every chance your paying over the odds for Sky compared to your neighbour. If so, your best bet may be to give Sky a ring on 08442 414 141 and tell them you’re not happy with your current package.