On October 1, Disney Channel arrives, taking over the channel occupied by Sky Movies Gold. It promises 16 hours a day of Disney movies, Disney concerts and The Wonderful World of Disney, or as the launch advertisements say “Disney quality television you can trust for the whole family”. The Disney Channel will be free to every home taking both Sky Movies & The Movie Channel.
Disney is a coup for BSkyB, adding value to its movies package. For the past two to three years the Sky movie channels have taken an eight per cent share of viewing in all satellite homes, but about 12 per cent in homes taking dual movies. This makes them by far the most popular satellite viewing in homes willing to pay for movies.
Close to 65 per cent of homes with dishes take dual movies, compared with about 40 per cent of cable homes, so there is plenty of room for expansion in both markets. The addition of Disney to the BSkyB movies stable should power this ahead.
The arrival of Disney could also affect Astra through additional sales of state-of-the-art satellite receivers. With Disney’s arrival, Sky Movies Gold moves to Astra 1D, the latest in the Astra satellite line-up. But Astra 1D transmits on a frequency different to the other Astra satellites, and can only be received by homes with the newer satellite receivers.
Of the total 3.4 million dish homes in the UK, a maximum of 750,000 can receive Astra 1D: and of the 2.2 million Sky Movies Gold dish homes, no more than 500,000 will be able to get the channel on Astra 1D.
Yet Sky Movies Gold is a major channel. Across all homes, dish and cable, movie subscribers and non-movie subscribers, it takes the same kind of share as Bravo, UK Living and MTV – and in dual movie homes a much higher share.
And it has grown rapidly since it took over from the Comedy Channel in 1993. In July, its top film, Full Metal Jacket, had an audience of close to 200,000, bringing it into the top 100 programmes shown on satellite TV.
So how will dual movie subscribers feel about losing Sky Movies Gold and gaining Disney? No doubt Astra, BSkyB and the high street hope that many will upgrade to a new receiver, and some probably will (particularly if Sky Movies Gold has a particularly strong schedule in the months leading towards Christmas). But some homes will be disappointed, probably older subscribers without children at home.
But the overall picture is one of a winning line-up for BSkyB. The dual movies package (if you can receive Astra 1D) includes three movie channels plus Disney. And Disney is arriving at the right time, in October when dish and cable take-up is at its highest in the run-up to Christmas. It should give both BSkyB a profitable Christmas and customers more satisfying viewing.