Real life

The great Sky bundle boondoggle

The payments for channels I never watch grow ever bigger and more inexplicable

6 June 2015

9:00 AM

6 June 2015

9:00 AM

Foolishly, I have this wild notion that one day, if the stars align in my favour, I might be able to reduce my Sky subscription. I know, I know. What a crazy, idealistic dreamer I am. But I just feel it ought to be possible to watch television for less than a thousand pounds a year.

I seem to remember, in the dark recesses of my brain, that once upon a time, far away in a wonderful utopia where TVs had big fat buttons, there used to be three channels with everything you wanted to see on them and no more bureaucratic or financial a nightmare to access this simple pleasure than paying a licence fee of a few pounds. Now the licence fee — inflated enough in itself — is the least of your worries as the payments to Sky grow bigger and more inexplicable.

When I first subscribed to get access to all the channels I never want to watch, I distinctly remember the charge being about £20 a month for something called ‘The Original Bundle’.

Before I knew it, The Original Bundle had crept up to £38.50. Every time I rang Sky to complain, they would inform me that to keep ‘my movies’ and ‘all my favourite shows’ I would have to pay through the nose or enter a new contract — or both, as it always turned out.

‘You want to keep your movies and all your favourite shows, don’t you?’ a bossy person would say, in a voice that more than communicated that I would live to rue the day if my answer was no.

‘Y-es, I suppose,’ I would reply, wondering what these favourite shows were. All I ever watch is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Family Guy and old reruns of Friends, and even those only keep me mildly entertained. Every now and then I look at ‘my movies’ and once a year I find one I want to watch. And every year I invariably call Sky and ask them to remind me just what it is I am paying all this money for.

During the unhappy duration of this annual call a few years ago, I discovered that my package had somehow morphed from The Original Bundle at £38.50 into ‘Variety With Movies’, costing £48 a month. Yet despite this, I allowed the fellow to persuade me to switch my broadband and landline to Sky as well. This would bring the charge to just £60 a month — for everything! ‘What an incredible bargain,’ I thought, until I put the phone down and realised that it wasn’t.

Then the other day I looked at my bank statement and the Sky charge was £78. Enough! I rang customer services: ‘Press one to add channels, two to take away channels…’ I know their game so I pressed one. If you press two, you never get through.

A cheerful Geordie came on the line. When I told him I wanted to get back to a time when my TV viewing cost less than the GDP of South America, he started to do the regretful voice.

‘You wouldn’t want to lose your movies, or your favourite entertainment channels, would you?’

‘N-o,’ I said, like a naughty schoolchild. ‘But isn’t there some way I could pay less?’

He said he would have to put me through to the number for taking away channels. ‘Oh no! Please, don’t leave me!’ I cried. But he was gone, and a few seconds later an urgent-sounding Scottish lady introduced herself.

‘Miss Kite, what if I told you that you could have all the channels you have now and pay just £37 a month?’

‘I’d say yes, please.’ All I needed to do, she explained, was enter a new year-long contract for my phone and broadband. ‘Well, maybe…’ The broadband is pants, but let’s face it, I’m not going anywhere, I thought. But she must have interpreted the pause as hard-balling.

‘Miss Kite, what if I said you could keep all the channels you have now and have your broadband for just £7.50 a month?’

‘Well, I er…’

‘Miss Kite, what if I said you could keep all the channels you have now and have your broadband for just £2.50 a month?’

‘But you said £7.50 just now. I might have stuck at that.’

‘Miss Kite, what if I said you could keep all the channels you have now and have your broadband for just £2 a month?’

It was clear she wasn’t going to stop until I agreed to something. In the end, we got the whole package with The Original Bundle down to £58.40, for a year. I felt like I had won for about two seconds. Then I put the phone down and realised I hadn’t bought The Original Bundle so much as The Original Swindle.

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Show comments
  • WTF

    The rip off is programs on Sky pay channels are actually free to air programs (or cable) in the USA and there’s adverts both in the USA and on Sky. Why should UK viewers be charged twice through subscription and adverts !

    The only saving grace for good programs is they can be recorded via a PVR/DVR and have the ads removed via a computer so they can be watched without disruption unlike real time TV. Not only that, a 1 hour program now only takes up 40 minutes of actual viewing time and if you want to strip out the “previously on xxxxx” and the end credits, your TV favourite program is barely half the time it takes to air normally.

    • colchar

      UK viewers aren’t charged for adverts. The channel makes money from them, but customers are not charged.

      • WTF

        Firstly, anyone who buys a product that is advertised is paying for the advertising. Putting that aside for the moment, any UK viewer has to pay a TV tax whatever they want to watch the BBC or not which is why its right to call it a TV tax. Thirdly, in most other countries, there is no TV tax however programming is generally funded by advertising.

        My point with Sky was that they charge you a subscription for all channels other than the basic 5 terrestrial channels and news channels. Other channels that are available on terrestrial for free are charged for by Sky and that is what I am against.

  • Rush_is_Right

    I took out a Sky subscription about a decade ago. It didn’t take me long to work out that the programs were of such poor quality that I would not allow my dogs to watch them. So at the end of the year it went, and I haven’t missed it for one second.

    • Bonkim

      Lucky you managed to cancel the subscription. Check your direct debits to see if Sky is still taking your money.

    • This isn’t a Sky problem; the poor quality is because there a dozens of channels these days all with their own soaps, cooking shows, reality TV, talk shows etc. No wonder the quality is watered down.

  • Bonkim

    If you subscribe to Sky you need to have your head examined. Don’t complain – Sky is an expert con-trick artist. you have been warned.

  • Lorenzo

    This is a common story with all cable and satellite carriers in the USA as well. Wife and I grew sick of this and got rid of cable TV about 12 years ago. Broadband internet is very affordable and it lets me lecture people in other countries.

    • Pacificweather

      You cannot imagine how grateful we are to you for doing that.

  • Winston Smith

    I can live with channels I don’t want to watch, my issue is with adverts I don’t want to watch on a subscription channel that already charges the best part of a thousand pounds a year.

    These seem to take up around a third of the time one spends watching the TV, or it did the last time I checked which was some while ago.

  • You worry too much: you buy a laptop for £1000 and use about 5% of what it can do. You spend £1000 on a flash watch and then wear it 5 times in your life. You spend a £1000 on booze and it all goes down the drain. You enjoy them all, you consider none a waste of money. With Sky just watch what you intended to watch, you don’t have to watch everything in the bundle. Just in the last month my viewing has been worth what I pay: all the football and rugby union and rugby league play-offs and finals, Super Rugby etc. That is all I’ve watched except for a few films.

  • berosos_bubos

    Sky is just as politically correct as the BBC, how can I explain that to them ?

  • Pacificweather

    I have never understood why anyone would pay to watch adverts when you can get the same adverts for free on Freeview.

  • Landphil

    Always avoided Sky. The more programmes available, the poorer the quality. Most of Freeview is junk or endless repeats. The only place for any Sky and Virgin junk mail advertising their services is the rubbish bin or recycling is you’re feeling really virtuous.