BBC Mulls Free Satellite Service to Rain on BSkyB's Parade

15 June 2004

Despite their cooperation on the highly successful Freeview digital TV project, little love is lost between Britain's BBC and Rupert Murdoch's UK satellite monopoly BSkyB.

Murdoch's media empire, which controls over 37% of UK newspaper readership, leaves no stone unturned to rubbish the BBC -- itself an aggressive counterpuncher.

And just such a Sunday punch could be on the way, according to a report in The Independent on Sunday.

BBC director of marketing Andy Duncan told the newspaper that the state-owned corporation is considering the launch of a free satellite service, seemingly replicating BSkyB's recently announced "free" service [WAMN: 10-Jun-04].

"If there is competition in these areas, it's good for consumers in terms of pricing and choice," Duncan told the IoS (while omitting to explain how two "free" services could compete on pricing).

Talks on the mooted BBC satellite project are in train with other broadcasters (excluding ITV, still bearing the livid scars of a £1.2 billion ($2.18bn; €1.86bn) loss on its now defunct ITV Digital venture). But although Duncan did not identify potential partners, he let it be known that BSkyB was party to such discussions before deciding to go it alone.

Meantime, it seems that the BBC may yet be involved in the new Sky venture. "We are in discussion with BSkyB about how we might work together. We would bring our brand credibility and support and could link the venture to a public service marketing campaign," explained Duncan silkily.

Media observers are fascinated by the battle of wits now being waged between the two media titans, both with pockets deep enough to sustain a lengthy war of attrition. Many believe the timing of the BBC's announcement, hard on the heels of BSkyB's new service, is a none-too subtle spoiling (or diversionary?) tactic.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff