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Sky allows customers to ‘pause’ subscriptions, stops charging pubs

Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta holds off Everton's Lucas Digne during Premier League match (by Stephanie Meek - CameraSport via Getty Images)

UK pay-television broadcaster Sky has said it will allow residential and commercial customers to freeze their subscriptions amid the dearth of live sport on its schedules due to Covid-19.

Sky’s sports rights portfolio is headlined by contracts with the likes of football’s English Premier League and the Formula 1 motor-racing championship, both of which have suspended their seasons. Cricket is also a major part of the Sky schedules, with the domestic County Championship due to commence on April 12.

Sky holds rights to England’s tour of Sri Lanka, which was due to commence tomorrow (Thursday) with the first Test in Galle, but that series has also been postponed.

The pay-television operator currently offers its ‘Complete Sports’ package to new subscribers for £23 (€24.69/$27.17) per month for the first 18 months (and then £30 per month).

Sky has said it will allow residential customers to pause their subscriptions free of charge, but their request to do so via the phone, rather than online, has led to criticism with subscribers last night reporting long waiting times to connect with helplines.

Sky said: “While we expect that many of the recently postponed sports events will eventually go ahead, if you wish to pause your sports subscription in the meantime you will not be charged a fee to do so or be held to any notice period. Meanwhile we continue to provide high quality content across all of our 11 sports channels.”

Sky’s pay-television rival, BT Sport, has yet to commit to a similar stance, but both broadcasters have said they will allow commercial clients to pause their subscriptions.

Sky has said it will not resume billing its commercial customers “until a live sport schedule returns” while BT Sport added it will “suspend billing for pubs and clubs customers for a two-week period.”

Sky’s subscription rates for commercial premises operate on the basis of the pub’s size, services and area in which it is located. On average, pubs have shelled out upwards of £20,000 per year for both Sky and BT.

Simon Raggett, managing director of Sky Business, said: “We understand that these are challenging times for many of our Sky Business venues, who rely on showing live sport in a social environment to attract customers and revenue. Supporting these businesses and doing what we can to help them in uncertain times is very important to us. We would like to reassure our Sky Business venues that from March 14 we will not be charging them for their Sky Sports service until a live sport schedule returns.”