Disappointment as Sky contract talks founder

Hopes among publicans here that the high cost of a Sky TV contract might be reduced have been dealt a blow by the failure of high level negotiations between executives at the subscription broadcaster and representatives of local trade body, Hospitality Ulster (HU).

LCN reported last August on talks between executives at Sky TV and representatives of HU as hopes began to rise that long-term disaffection among venue-owners over the high cost of a Sky Sports contract might be addressed.

Now, however, almost a year after those talks began, HU’s Colin Neill has confirmed his understanding that Sky is unlikely to be making any changes to its payment regime for publicans in Northern Ireland.

“We have raised this issue with MPs and Parliament and we have had a number of meetings with senior people from Sky, but the position which they are taking is that this is good value for money, that Northern Ireland is being treated fairly and that maybe this [a Sky contract] is not for every premise, which is disappointing,” Mr Neill told LCN this month.

In the past, Mr Neill has accused the broadcaster of operating “an unfair regime” in Northern Ireland. Claiming that discounts of up to 30 per cent, which publicans in GB are able to access, are being denied to subscribers in Northern Ireland, Mr Neill said that the prevailing situation was “totally unacceptable”.

Speaking this month, Mr Neill said that while HU was still “at loggerheads” with Sky over contract costs, he hoped to revisit the issue in the future:

“But I don’t hold out much hope for change,” he warned. “What we would say to the industry is that you should do your sums. Work out what it costs you and what return you get on it. Make sure it’s viable and take a look at the other things you could do to bring people into your premises.”

Responding to LCN, a spokesperson for Sky said that the broadcaster wanted to “ensure Sky remains an investment that pays back for everyone and that we offer pricing that best reflects the value Sky brings to a business”.

In a short statement, Sky referred to a 20 per cent partnership discount which it has introduced for customers of Molson Coors in NI and listed some of the changes that it has made to its services and content in recent months.

But Lurgan publican, Thomas McConaghy, who has had Sky in his Courthouse bar for more than 20 years, describes the fees he pays the broadcaster as “extortionate”:

“It has now got to the point where there’s very little value in it for us and we would consider taking it out” he added. “You now have BT Sport and others on board as well, it’s not just Sky anymore, and I think that the whole thing has really become diluted.”



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