Sky is dumping numbered sports channels to be replaced with themed stations for specific sports beginning with football, golf and cricket. It hopes the move will stem falling sport ratings as it rebrands and introduces a cheaper package from £18 (€20).
In addition to the dedicated channels a new channel, Sky Sports Arena, will host other content including rugby and tennis.
The cost of sports rights has exploded in recent years with Sky paying £4.2 billion in its latest Premier League TV deal – 83 per cent more than the previous deal, but viewing has dropped significantly.
Sky has put the viewer loss over the past year down to airing more games per season, many of which feature less popular clubs, the relegation of clubs with relatively large fanbases such as Newcastle and Aston Villa, and the BBC’s live Rio Olympics coverage.
Sky added 40,000 subscribers in the UK in the three months to the end of March, compared with 70,000 in the same period last year.
The Sky Sports Mix channel, which Sky uses to showcase sport to its wider subscriber base by offering it free to basic package holders, will be continued.