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Pollard looks hard at Sky

Topper pessimistic about profit potential

LONDON — Sky News topper Nick Pollard has acknowledged that the rolling news service, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s satcaster BSkyB, is never likely to make a profit.

In an unusual admission for a Murdoch employee, Pollard told a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in London on Wednesday that the channel “is not making money … and I don’t know if it will ever. It is never going to be a major profit center.”

Launched in 1988, Sky News briefly went into the black during the early 1990s before the launch of BBC News 24, which cable operators carried free of charge, forcing Sky to forgo carriage fees.

Pollard does not, however, think Murdoch will close Sky News, because of its high reputation among British politicians and opinion formers.

“If Sky News continues for the next 50 years, people will still be saying that it’s not here to stay,” Pollard said.

It is an open secret that in the early 1990s when BSkyB was losing so much money that it was jeopardizing News Corp., Murdoch rejected a proposal to axe Sky News and save $55 million a year.

While the service costs the Murdoch org money, Sky News’ new supply contact with Five, Blighty’s upstart terrestrial web, is a big earner for BSkyB, according to Pollard.

“It makes a pretty substantial profit for us,” said Pollard, who declined to provide detailed figures.

Last year, Sky secured the Five contract from U.K. news provider ITN in what observers assumed was a considerable saving for Five, but Pollard revealed that the web is paying more to Sky than it did to ITN.

“You’ve only to got to look at what we’re doing (for Five) to see that it’s a better product,” said Pollard.

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