How the Sky analogue service was
run down in favour of digital....
(Chris Wathan)

 

Chris Wathen from Cornwall has provided all the content for this page. Thanks for all the information Chris!

 

When SkyDigital launched at the end of 1998, there was much speculation about what would happened to Sky's existing Analogue service, which had been in operation since 1989.

This would not be the first time that Sky had operated two services. In 1990, they took over the the former BSB D2MAC platform, and operated a second service from the Marcopolo satellite in addition their Astra service. Despite claiming that both services would continue to work in parallel, their commitment to Marcopolo was short lived and in 1992 they unceremoniously pulled the plug on it.

Sky claimed that a repeat of this would not happen now and they "would continue to operate a full Analogue service for many years to come". At first they appeared to mean it. Although SkyDigital was promoted as the latest and greatest, Analogue was not neglected in any way.

They were still more than happy to take new subscribers on the Analogue service (I did not take out a subscription until May 1999, despite having had an Astra setup installed since Sky's original launch in 1989), new channels continued to be launched on the platform (although ironically the few added since the launch of SkyDigital were amongst the first to go when  Analogue started to be phased out), there was still a dedicated Analogue customer magazine which gave advice on how people could get more out of their existing system. This magazine was even treated to a revamp in Autumn 1999. SkyDigital was quietly promoted to Analogue viewers, but it was not rammed down their throats. No-one was under any pressure to opt for SkyDigital over Analogue.

However because of this, few people did convert from Analogue and many new subscribers continued to opt for an Analogue installation over a Digital one, due to it's vastly increased cost. Sky decided that this 'let them change in their own sweet time' approach wasn't going to work fast enough for their liking, and so became more hardline. They still claim to this day that they are not forcing anyone to change to digital, but that clearly is exactly what they are doing.

So, in February 2000, 15 months after the launch of SkyDigital, Sky got heavy. They introduced a new free equipment offer on Digital boxes, and scrapped the one-off connection fee. A massive TV advertising campaign started to get people to switch to digital, and the analogue service was now being treated as the poor relation to SkyDigital. They would no longer allow any new subscriptions to the Analogue service. They would no longer launch any new channels on the Analogue service. The Analogue customer magazine now featured an advert for SkyDigital on every single page, and would also find itself scrapped before very much longer. But most significant of all, they set a date for the shutdown of their analogue service: December 2001, with some channels closing down before that date.

To prove they meant business they decided that the first channel losses would occur then and there, in February 2000. By the end of the month, Sky Box Office Movies, .TV, Granada Breeze, Sky Cinema and FilmFour were moved from the analogue service.

6 months later in August, they removed some more channels. Sky Box Office Events, Rapture TV and The Racing Channel departed. They also announced that the closedown date would be brought forward to June 2001, and the analogue customer magazine would be discontinued in the autumn. So far the channels removed had all been audience-specific channels, all the mainstream channels were still in place. Sky decided that now they would remove a mainstream channel. The channel choosen was the popular Granada Plus, departing in February 2001. As a consequence of this Granada Men and Motors, which shared the same transponder, also left. And the Adult Channel was also discontinued. And other channels which filled dead time on transponders such as Shop America and TV Shop also left the analogue service.

Despite having taken away the customer magazine and having removed quite a number of channels now, Sky Analogue still offered good value for money when compared to the digital competition such as ONdigital. Perhaps this was making people stay. So, only two months later, analogue viewers were hit with the most damning set of channel closures yet. UK Gold, UK Horizons, UK Play, Fox Kids, Challenge TV, Discovery Animal Planet, Discovery Home & Leisure, Discovery Channel, Bravo, Trouble, Sci-Fi Channel, TVX, History Channel and Living were all removed on April 1st 2001. On this day Sky analogue ceased to offer good value for money and only the most diehard analogue followers continued a subscription after this point.

As if that wasn't enough, only a month later on May 1st, Nickeloden, Paramount, MTV UK and VH-1 UK were also removed from the analogue service. The only subscription channels left now are Sky One, Sky Moviemax, Sky Premier, Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 3 and Disney. Viewers with the 13.99/month. Sky Multichannels package are now only getting Sky One from their subscription. And yet Sky still claim that they aren't forcing anyone to change.

 

Editors addition. Sky Analogue was closed down completely on September 27th 2001, when the final 3 channels were switched off for the final time....

 

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