Launch of Sky TV
The 6th of February 1989 AD
The launch of Sky TV, and its eventual success, is a testament to the ability of determined entrepreneurs – in this case Rupert Murdoch love him or loathe him – to drive through new ventures that organisations managed by committee would never dare contemplate. The switch on by – Rupert Murdoch of course – at the organisation’s Isleworth HQ was about as glitzy as the initial broadcast offering on its then four channels: sport, which had few big draws; news; films with the first shown an uninspiring sci-fi piece; and Sky Channel, now Sky One.
For years a cosy near duopoly, the BBC and ITV, had dominated British TV screens, the BBC in particular an establishment organisation with predictable programming and the feel of a place staffed at the upper tiers by people at school and university together for whom David Attenborough was a demi-god. Murdoch stuck the boot into that cosiness: Sky was technology-friendly, keen to try new ways of doing things, with rolling news when needed, and soon encryption that made Hollywood more relaxed about showing recent blockbusters; and pay-TV. And it employed outsiders including plenty of antipodean imports whose methods for some were just not cricket.
The first years of Sky TV bled News International’s coffers alarmingly; but when it secured the rights to show live Premier League matches its fortunes rapidly changed. Entrepreneurs can get things done.
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