Sky is one of the UK’s most successful companies and, while content has played a big part in that being true, the reason many people stick with it is the almost Apple-like commitment to customer service and experience.
Whether you’re a Sky customer, or someone who subscribes to its channels on a rival platform, the firm wants you to have the best experience possible while watching its content.
But this commitment to customers, even those it has only an arm’s length relationship with, could leave it with a major headache following yesterday’s ruling that BT is allowed to offer Sky Sports 1 & 2 on YouView until Ofcom’s order forcing Sky to wholesale the channels to rivals is reviewed.
Buried in the transcript of evidence to the Competition Appeals Tribunal is this statement from Sky’s lawyers explaining why it agreed to let BT offer Sky Sports 1 & 2 over broadband IPTV instead of aerial (DTT) to Vision+ boxes:
“I think that is right, remembering that subscribers to BT’s Cardinal platform who had BT Sport – Sky Sports, would originally have taken them over DTT, so if BT wants to move it to IPTV then if Sky were not prepared to ensure distribution by IPTV, that would have involved cutting off existing customers, which is not something that Sky wants to do.”
Yet if Ofcom’s wholesale order is eventually overruled, Sky will face a choice between cutting off BT’s YouView customers or continuing to supply the channels despite its court win.
The second of these seems more likely but would represent, at best, only a partial victory for BT.
Sky could still refuse to sell BT the remainder of its channels, leaving the firm lagging behind TalkTalk and Virgin Media in the sports content it can offer.
And then, when YouView is finally able to support for the full NOW TV experience, Sky could market the heck out of the service and sell direct to BT’s customers.
Customers are clearly winning but, when this row is finally over, it may be hard to say which is the victorious company.