Sky have announced they are reorganising their sports channels, with the addition of two new channels from 18 July.
There will be new dedicated channels for Premier League, other football, golf and cricket alongside the existing F1 channel, plus two new channels called Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Arena which will cover tennis among other sports.
The idea is that viewers will be able to pick and choose the sports they want to watch, and won’t have to pay for the full set of Sky Sports channels if they don’t want to, which seems fair enough.
The full package of Sky Sports channels is the same price as it is now at £27.50 per month. For those who want to pick and choose their channels, they can take one at £18 per month, two at £22 and three at £26.
A third new channel, Sky Sports Main Event, will show the best of the coverage from the other channels, completing the line-up alongside Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports News which are available to all Sky subscribers at present.
Sky have clarified that Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Arena are treated as one channel for billing purposes, so if you are a fan of tennis and only want to watch tennis, you would need to subscribe to Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Arena, at £18 a month, rather than the full Sky Sports package at £27.50 per month.
Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Arena will also show other sports including rugby union, rugby league, boxing, netball, darts, NFL, WWE and GAA.
ATP tennis only fills 19 weeks of the Sky Sports schedule this year, so I can understand it would not make sense for a dedicated tennis channel because it would not be cost effective to run.
But it would be better if Sky could commit to their tennis coverage being on just one channel so that fans don’t need to subscribe to both Action and Arena.
Tennis fans cried out loud to Sky when there was a very real prospect of losing Eurosport from their screens back in February, and record viewing figures for the Austrlian Open prove that tennis does has value and rights should be attractive for broadcasters to hold.
However, the rights to ATP tennis are up for grabs for the 2019 season onwards, and other broadcasters including BT, Eurosport and ITV are said to be interested in snatching them from Sky.
Sky Sports have covered tennis since they launched, so it would be disappointing if they decide not to continue investing in tennis coverage, although they handed their subcontracted US Open rights back to Eurosport in 2016.
It’s understood that Sky Sports 1 will become Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports 2 will become the Premier League channel. Dedicated football, cricket and golf channels replace Sky Sports 3, 4 and 5.
If you currently subscribe to the full Sky Sports package, you can downgrade to receive just the channels you want from 18 July when they launch.
I understand that the new channels will be available on Virgin Media and Sky Ireland, but customers of both will only be able to subscribe to all of the channels together. BT TV – which currently only carries Sky Sports 1 and 2 – will get Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Extra, a channel made up of content from the other channels.
Updated 18 July with clarification on pricing of Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Arena.