Sky TV adds to customer base

By Peter Griffin

By PETER GRIFFIN

Sky Television will pick up thousands of new customers in the New Year when it begins supplying customers of telecoms company TelstraClear with its sport, news and movie channels.

TelstraClear's 26,000 pay-TV subscribers in Wellington and Christchurch will receive Sky's programming from the beginning of February, effectively making Sky the only major pay TV operator in the country.

Analysts had widely forecast that TelstraClear would withdraw from the content side of providing pay TV services and seek a wholesaling arrangement with Sky, its dominant competitor in the pay TV market. That was first seen in August when TelstraSaturn pulled the plug on plans for a satellite pay-TV service that would have reached customers outside Wellington and Christchurch.

TelstraClear spokesman Quentin Bright said most of the content arrangements would remain when Sky assumed responsibility for the service. Saturn Sport would be dropped from the mix in favour of Sky's sport channels and a couple of other channels would be the subject of negotiations between Sky and foreign content providers.

The deal mirrors a bundling arrangement Sky has had in place with Telecom since March. The Sky-Fi deals offered by the two companies combine internet access, phone line rental and pay TV services and have so far been moderately successful.

Mr Bright said TelstraSaturn's $49.90 entry-level pay-TV and telephone service would be maintained, but price changes would arise when subscribers chose various combinations of Sky channels.

TelstraClear's chief executive, Rosemary Howard, said the deal was a sign of the "buy-build" strategy TelstraClear would be pursuing, where the company would more actively seek wholesale and resale deals with other companies rather than invest heavily in building its own infrastructure.

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