Sky believes in a better return from its operation in Ireland
“We’ll offer our own service and we’ll encourage as many people as possible to join Sky. That’s what we do day in and day out. The idea is to build a mass market business.”
Darroch was also coy on what speeds its broadband customers will enjoy when it launches here.
The company has agreed a wholesale deal with BT Ireland. This will include piggy-backing on the Eircom network in parts of the country where the BT network doesn’t reach.
This suggests that the maximum speeds it could offer customers would be 24Mbs, roughly half of the basic offering from cable rival UPC, which has spent more than €500 million in recent years to bring its network up to snuff.
The reality is that Sky won’t be competing for UPC customers. Instead, it will be targeting Eircom and Vodafone subscribers and hoping that bundling these services with its TV offering will swing them its way.
“In the UK what we found is that speed is only one element of choice and not actually that important in terms of the hierarchy of needs of most customers,” Darroch counters.
“Download capacity is incredibly important and value consistently rates as the most important element of consumer choice in the value proposition.
“And service is really important. Making sure the broadband connection is always on is important.”
He claims that Sky has been consistently top rated in terms of customer service in broadband and home telephone since launching these products in the UK and has been outgrowing its competitors over that timeframe, too.
“Broadband and telephony are only two of the additional services that we can offer,” he adds.
“We can offer high definition television as well. We can offer multi-room services and other things that we will dream up and develop over time.”
Ironically, given all the talk of a value proposition, Sky is pushing through a price increase on its TV subscriptions from February 1st.
For some Irish subscribers that will mean paying an extra €3 a month. The web forums have been alive with conspiracy theories that the launch of broadband and telephone next month is a device to distract attention from the price rise on TV.
It certainly seems counter intuitive given that the economy remains depressed and the public were whacked with yet more taxes in December’s budget.
“It’s three years since we last took a price increase,” Darroch counters. “We’ve held prices flat over that period.
“I still think Sky represents outstanding value for money for a family. We went to the cinema as a family the other day and it was £60 before you even have a drink and that’s not exactly cheap.
“You can get all that Sky offers for the price of a family night out for a pizza or a trip to the cinema.”
Darroch also argues that Sky has put “more value” into its TV service over the past couple of years, citing the launch of entertainment channel Sky Atlantic and Sky Go, which allows subscribers to view content on smartphones and other devices when they’re not at home.
“Inevitably, we have to get the right returns from the business to make the investment to keep improving the service.”
One of the innovations of recent years has been 3D, with Sky dabbling in using this technology for certain sports. Some question whether 3D will ever take off in homes, given the need to wear special glasses to view programmes.
“We’re not monetising 3D. Basically, it’s an entitlement that we build in to our HD pack.
“It’s suffered a bit from arriving at the time of the global downturn. Therefore, we’re not seeing the amount of 3D content yet being produced across the globe that we’d hope for.
“Ultimately, there’s a lot of work upstream in terms of glasses-free technology. When that comes through, that will be helpful. But it’s probably still a couple of years out.”
What else might we expect in the future from Sky?
“We’ve got a small business today that we’re building in the UK public wifi hotspots to make it easy for Sky customers to get access to content away from home.”
In Ireland, we can expect more commissioning of locally produced programmes. Sky has already dipped a toe in the water with Moone Boy, a comedy filmed in Roscommon.