• -
  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 7, 2011 @ 7:30 am

    Will Sky Atlantic be a dealbreaker for UPC customers?

    Laura Slattery

    It sounds like an airline chasing lost business class custom, but anyone who has spotted the prominent and kind of thrilling advertising campaign for Sky Atlantic will be under no illusions. Against a night-time New York skyline, the billboards declare “let the stories begin”.

    On February 1st, the Sky Atlantic channel will launch with the pilot of HBO’s Prohibition-era gangsterfest Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi and directed by Martin Scorsese. Other programming rights seized by the new Murdoch revenue vehicle include Treme (the New Orleans-based series by David “The Wire” Simon), the forthcoming fifth series of Mad Men and the convoluted-sounding home-commissioned six-parter Hit and Miss, produced by Paul Abbott.

    The pedigree of the line up and initial feedback on the shows that have already aired in the US suggests that Sky Atlantic will be more hit than miss – or, as the billboard tagline phrases it, the channel will “bring iconic television to Ireland”. This suggests, of course, that without the thoughtful, altruistic intervention of subscriber-seeking BSkyB, Irish viewers would never get the opportunity to lay eyes on the best drama and comedy that HBO, Showtime and AMC have to offer, rather than enduring the usual process whereby we twitch a bit, envious of our American cousins, until they eventually end up on free-to-air channels at a later than necessary hour.

    Sky Atlantic will be free to all Sky subscribers until the end of August, at which point the channel will be part of the Variety Pack, a €2 per month add-on to the basic €23 per month package. (For new sightings of Jon Hamm, Mad Men‘s Don Draper, in glorious high definition, you will need to pay €15 extra a month for the HD Pack.) That’s good news for Sky’s 600,000-plus Irish subscribers, assuming they haven’t just signed on purely to be amused by Jeff Stelling and his posse of shouty pitchside reporters.

    Access to Sky Atlantic for the 375,000 digital television subscribers to UPC Ireland, on the other hand, has yet to be confirmed. Indeed, when I contacted UPC earlier this week, its product team said this: “It is under review with the channel provider. Until discussions conclude, we’re not in a position to comment any further.”

    Aaagghhh. (You can guess which company has my custom.)  A last minute carriage deal is still possible and far from unprecedented. On the other hand, Sky could choose to delay or restrict access to other pay-TV providers in order to further differentiate its offering, in much the same way as it does with the HD versions of its sports channels. In any case, even “iconic” dramas are unlikely, by themselves, to spark an exodus from UPC to Sky, if only because drama fans looking to score cool points by watching them before everyone else will already be in the habit of downloading the shows as soon as they are broadcast in the US. Almost everyone else who cares will reluctantly wait for the box set – an attitude that doesn’t tend to work so well when it comes to live football.

    What Sky Atlantic does do, however, is give BSkyB’s pay TV products a talking point; a hook for its flashy ad campaign, which may help it grab any growth in the market before UPC’s Borg-like contact centres can get to it. UPC’s approach to adding customers – and it is still adding them – seems to largely eschew exclusive content in favour of sucking people in under their bundling deals: buy this 100 MB broadband, for which we’ve gone to all the trouble of digging holes in the ground, and take our phone and Sky-facsimile television products while you’re at it.

    I won’t leave UPC for Sky if it can’t negotiate a deal on Sky Atlantic, but that feeling of missing out on a rich cultural glut will leave me hostile – partly towards UPC, but mostly towards BSkyB for causing all the grief in the first place. Personally, I’ve always quite liked watching Mad Men on elegant, commercial-free BBC 4. Sky’s world domination plans have scuppered that.

    • Joe Griffin says:

      Oh goodness, this might very well be a deal-breaker for me. Fingers crossed UPC get their act together…

    • I’m in the same position as yourself Laura, deciding to go with UPC for television and (seriously good) broadband. But my small investment in a decent High Definition television has left alot to be desired.

      I’m not optimistic about Sky Atlantic on UPC. They’ve yet to add Sky News HD or Sky 1 HD to their lineup, nor have they added BBC One HD, which launched late last year.

      They were able to quickly add a non-HD channel from Sky (Sky Christmas – no seriously!) over Christmas, so it may not just be a case of negotiation with Sky for the rights, but whether UPC has the capacity along it’s cables to add more HD Channels.

      An engineer told me recently that one HD channel on UPC takes up the same bandwith as 8 standard definition channels.

      I’m not going to hold my breath on this one, and like yourself, can’t help but feel with UPC i’m getting an inferior product as a result.

    • Tortured Soul says:

      Does anyone know when negotiations between UPC & SKY are to conclude on the broadcasting of SKY Atlantic ?, as the channel broadcasts on Feb. 1st with the screening of Boardwalk Empire ……

    • Jeanne Spillane says:

      Any developments on this topic yet? I assume Sky Atlantic is available in Standard Definition as well as HD, hopefully UPC will at least manage to negotiate something for the former, if not for the latter … as long as it happens before April, HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ is going to be truely epic! Winter is Coming :)

    • JC says:

      Would never, ever, ever, ever , ever go back to UPC.

    • James Byrne says:

      Any update on this, the eve of Sky Atlantic launch? I too have UPC and a HD tv but don’t mind if it’s HD or not. Anyone who appreciates the fantastic tv HBO alone produces, ie The Wire, West Wing, The Sopranos, Entourage and Sex and The City will be itching to see Boardwalk Empire etc. C’mon UPC!

    • David Flynn says:

      the sollution to the corporate chennel machine which is Sky is simply JUMP SHIP. Combining Broadbeand, Digital and TV you’ll save a Package – no pun intended. If the envious twitch does become too much for the naked eye – STREAM IT through your 20MB Broadband UPC and initiate a two fingered solute to SKY it’s attempted digital monopolising and also the popcorn WWF watching Sky customer.

      FREE TV – the new going out!!


    • Matty says:

      Downloading, people, downloading. Why give Sky or UPC the money when you can download for nothing the day after they are shown in the States?

    • Barry. says:

      Im a Upc customer and im sick of them, paying 132 euro every two months, for 46 channels and sky sports, thats without the movies, i do have the multiroom and the old chorus boxes, thats very steep if you ask me, now that Sky Atlantic is here on sky digital im switching over.

Search The Index