BSkyB running into a bundle of trouble

LONDON — British Sky Broadcasting could be heading for more turbulence, with reports that its talks with the BBC concerning digital TV have run into difficulties, and that the satcaster is under pressure to unbundle the Disney Channel from its program package.

Press reports claim BSkyB is demanding $500 million more than the BBC is prepared to pay for carriage of the pubcaster’s digital channels on BSkyB’s satellite platform.

Separately, BSkyB is expected to announce this week that the Disney Channel will in future be sold to cable and satellite subscribers as a stand-alone service. At the moment it only is available as a free bonus service to people who subscribe to BSkyB’s premium movie channels.

This change is designed to preempt action by the Independent Television Commission, which after receiving complaints from cable operators has been investigating BSkyB’s practice of bundling channels. The ITC specifically was examining the case of the Disney Channel, but also could decide to ban bundling completely.

That prospect is viewed with horror not just by BSkyB, but also by most other satellite programmers, who rely on being part of BSkyB’s huge multichannel basic package in order to survive.

Meanwhile, BSkyB reportedly is gearing up to sue Reuters News Service concerning claims the news agency failed to fulfill the terms of its 10-year programming contract with the Sky News channel.

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