Mystery of Sky’s disappearing red button function resolved

Reader raging after option was unavailable for BBC’s Wimbledon coverage

Sky says “such services may be provided by third parties and as such their availability is out of our control”. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Sky says “such services may be provided by third parties and as such their availability is out of our control”. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

 

Helen Irwin is a Sky TV customer and she was prompted to get in touch after she started having problems with the red button on her remote control while she was watching Wimbledon.

“I chose to go with Sky mainly because they were the only supplier who gave the ‘red button’ option at the time and, as I am a tennis and golfing fan, that option was hugely attractive as one could flick to watch a selection of six courts at Wimbledon on BBC at any given time,” she writes.

But on the first day of Wimbledon she was horrified to realise her red button was not working so she called Sky to see if there was a fault. She says she was told that “the service had been withdrawn in Ireland a few months previously and had been done without notifying customers, which, in my opinion, was quite sneaky”.

She is “constantly receiving emails from Sky informing me of extra things coming up that can be purchased and I also received their email last October advising that the subscription would be rising by €5.35 in December (which it did). So why could they not send an email advising customers about the removal of the red button service? I sent an email of complaint just after that phone call but, of course, I have heard nothing back from them,” she writes.

She suggests there “must be thousands like me who were annoyed during Wimbledon week when we kept hearing that a match we were in the middle of watching was transferring to the red button. Incidentally, I notice that it is available on Sky Sports for the golf at the moment, so it must be just withdrawn from BBC channels.”

She recently read that the BBC has won the rights from Sky Sports for the US PGA Championship next year, which clashes with the World Championships of athletics. “The article says that TV coverage should not be a problem as the ‘BBC red button can be utilised’. I have no doubt that the Athletics will take preference for coverage, so therefore, if the red button is not restored before then, golf enthusiasts will miss out,” she writes.

She concludes by asking that if the “red button was part of the service in my contract, can they just take it (or anything else for that matter) away without notifying me? Perhaps you could find out from them why it was removed and maybe work to have it restored.”

We contacted Sky and have some good news. A spokeswoman told us the company had “not removed the red button functionality [and the] red button is available across all Sky channels. The reason the red button functionality wasn’t available for Wimbledon is because the BBC did not clear the rights for Ireland, so red button was not available to Irish customers,” she said.

The spokeswoman also addressed our reader’s query about what is and what is not part of the contract. “Red button content is what is considered a TV Extra Service under our customer contract. Our customer contract is clear that such services may be provided by third parties and as such their availability is out of our control. With regards to the US PGA – whether red button functionality will be available to Irish viewers will depend on whether the BBC has cleared the rights for this functionality in Ireland.”

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