Murdoch Minor Vetoes BSkyB Free-to-Air Move

09 March 2004

Plans by UK satellite giant BSkyB to launch a free-to-air entertainment channel have been shelved by recently installed ceo James Murdoch.

The pay-TV group -- 35%-owned by News Corporation -- had been mulling a new ad-funded station for digital TV platform Freeview, which offers viewers a range of free-to-air channels once they have purchased a set-top box.

The venture would have marked a significant departure by BSkyB into free-to-air television. But according to a report in NewsCorp paper The Times, Murdoch -- younger son of Rupert -- has vetoed the idea, arguing that it would distract the broadcaster from its core pay-TV business.

BSkyB first made its plans public in September, when chief operating officer Richard Freudenstein revealed the broadcaster was considering turning Sky Travel (one of three Sky channels on Freeview) into a mainstream entertainment station [WAMN: 23-Sep-03].

However, he added that this would only happen if the platform were available in 8m homes -- far more than its current reach of 3m.

Now the plans have been shelved, Sky Travel will remain alongside Sky News and Sky Sports News as the broadcaster's Freeview stations.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff