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British Sky Broadcasting plc

In 1985 Sky Channel was a single, pan-European, loss-making service. By 2000 BSkyB was Britain's largest multichannel television provider, with massive profits, and ten of its own channels. How did this come about? Read on...

A Tiny Satellite Station
In 1978 a tiny company, Satellite TV UK, launched a minor, 2-hour a day service on the experimental Orbital Test Sattellite. In 1982, Ruper Murdoch took over the company, making it an 80%-News International subsidary. But the company could not take over the world on "the budget of
Border Television". In 1985 the company launched a pan-European service, full time service, Sky Channel. Sky was soon on cable companies across Europe, fighting a war against English language rivals Super.

Murdoch on Astra...versus BSB on Marco Polo
In 1988 the Astra satellite was launched, and Murdoch booked 4 channels on the satellite for Sky, which was to relaunch as a UK service in 1989. But Sky was not to be alone. The IBA licensed an official service, BSB, for launch in 1990. In 1989 the Sky Television service, with Sky One, Sky News, Sky Movies, and Eurosport (a joint venture with EBU) launched. The next year, BSB launched with Galaxy, Now, The Movie Channel, The Sports Channel, and PowerStation. In 1990 the two sides went head-to-head to battle for viewers. It was a cutthroat battle, with both sides making massive losses and only one could survive-Murdoch. In late 1990 the two sides negotiated a merger. But it was only a merger of capital- shortly after the merger went through, BSB Galaxy and BSB Now were immediately taken off air and replaced with Sky One and Sky News (though Now lived on for a while as Sky Arts, a weekend only service on Sky News). Power Station was gone within months. Practically all of BSB’s staff, except some Sports Channel presenters, were sacked. Marco Polo, the BSB sattellite, was shut down at the end of 1992. Sky’s holding in Eurosport was sold and Sports Channel became the first Sky Sports channel. The Movie Channel would be the only BSB channel to survive, and in fact lived on until 1998 (when it became Sky Movies 2 in Februrary and later became Sky Premier in September).

A Change of Fortune.
Meanwhile British Sky Broadcasting, as the company was now titled, was still loosing massive amounts. But all that was to change. In 1993 Sky bid against ITV for the rights to FA Premier League football. Though outrageously expensive for Sky, it now meant it could sell subscriptions to Sky Sports. And it did! Sky was to convert its staggering losses into even more staggering profits.

Its All Uphill from Here.
Later Sky created a package of 30 basic channels, the Sky Multichannel Pack, encrypting all its channels except Sky News. From here the profits went up and up. Sky launched new channels, including Sky Movies Gold and Sky Travel. But there were also failures, like Sky Two and Sky Soap. More channels were added to the Multichannel package all the time. But space on Astra was running out...

The Digital Future
In the late 1990s Sky spent most of its time (and its massive profits) investing in its new digital service, blocking up mass space on Astra’s digital satellite multiplexes. SkyDigital’s launch was set for October 1 1998. The UK’s first sattellite service became its first digital service, launching weeks before ONdigital. The service became the Republic’s first digital TV service on December 18th 1998. Sky now intends to switch off the Astra analogue service in 2002 – if you’re a Sky Analogue viewer, upgrade now.