British Sky Broadcasting

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British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB - formerly two companies, Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting) is a company that operates Sky Digital, the most popular subscription television service in the UK and Ireland. It also produces TV content, and TV channels. It is controlled by 35% shareholder News Corporation, an American company chaired by Rupert Murdoch.



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Evolution of UK satellite television

This section should include corporate history not a rehash of Sky Digital.

Improving technology

The Astra satellite network began with the launch of the analogue Astra 1A in 1989. With the launch of more Astra satellites from 1991 onward BSkyB was able to begin expanding its services (the Astra satellites were all orbitally co-located so that they could be received using the same dish).

The launch of the first Astra 2 series satellite at a new orbital position, 28.2° east, in 1997 (followed by more Astra satellites as well as Eutelsat's Eurobird at 28.5°E), enabled the company to launch a new all-digital service, Sky Digital, with the potential to carry hundreds of television and radio channels. The Astra 2 fleet at 28.2° east maintains a geostationary orbit 35,600km from earth and was built by Hughes, now Boeing Satellite Systems.

Terrestrial competition

BSkyB has faced competition from terrestrial such as the ONdigital digital terrestrial television service (later renamed ITV Digital). BSkyB defeated its rivals partly thanks to aggressive marketing and partly because of its rivals' numerous technical and administrative failures. One of these problems was that its method of encryption was easily breakable. However, Sky was more receptive to ITV Digital's FTA replacement, Freeview, in which it holds an equal stake with the BBC and Crown Castle International. Three BSkyB channels are available on this platform: Sky News, Sky Travel, and Sky Sports News.


Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, originally the sole owner of BSkyB, currently has a 38% stake in the company. It also fully owns the similarly-named Sky Italia and about 78% of New Zealand's SKY Network Television Limited. Murdoch's son, James, became CEO of BSkyB in 2003. This announcement caused allegations of nepotism from shareholders.

Sky utilizes the VideoGuard pay-TV scrambling system owned by News Digital Systems, a News Corporation subsidiary. There are tight controls over use of VideoGuard decoders; they are not available as stand-alone DVB CAMs (Conditional Access Modules). BSkyB has design authority over all digital satellite receivers capable of receiving their service. The receivers, though designed and built by different manufacturers, must conform to the same user interface look-and-feel as all the others. This extends to the PVR offering (branded Sky+ ). Although the manufacturers have to follow BSkyB's design criteria, this leads to many innovative features such as instant Pay-Per-View (due to the ability to record encrypted streams and decrypt on play). Many people think that giving the broadcaster such total control over the viewing experience (and viewing prices) may keep other PVR features from appearing on BSkyB's receivers due to the monopoly position over the decoding CAMs. BSkyB initially charged additional subscription fees for using a Sky+ PVR with their service; however, early in 2004, this additional 10 charge was quashed (albeit only to subscribers whose package includes two or more premium channels) to encourage existing owners to upgrade seamlessly. The Economist has suggested that News Corporation would eventually like to merge BSkyB with its US satellite operation, DirecTV and possibly its Star network to form a global satellite TV company.

Joint ventures

Sky and cable television

The other two major pay-TV operators in the United Kingdom are the cable operators NTL and Telewest. Unlike Sky, NTL does not produce a large amount of content of its own, although Telewest owns the Flextech production company. They broadcast the main Sky channels, and this is one of their principal selling points. Thus they are not only Sky's rivals, but also its two most important customers. They compete with Sky on price, and are able to diferentiate themselves from Sky through their ability to offer bundles of services such as internet access and telephone service. Sky is allowed to restrict certain channels such as Sky Sports Xtra to its direct customers, who are also able to use certain interactive features of its programming which are not available to cable viewers. Competition between Sky and the two cable companies is regulated by Ofcom.

See also

External links

nl:British Sky Broadcasting


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