BSkyB puts Picnic on ice

Pay TV service waiting for Ofcom's approval

BSkyB’s much-delayed digital terrestrial pay TV service, Picnic, has been put on ice — indefinitely.

Originally planned to bow last summer, the initiative has been the subject of regulatory scrutiny by U.K. media watchdog Ofcom, which is examining concerns about BSkyB’s dominant position in Blighty’s pay TV market.

Picnic would have offered four premium channels carrying news, sports, films and entertainment on Freeview, the U.K.’s most popular digital TV platform, which carries free-to-air channels.

BSkyB is frustrated at the regulatory logjam and is abandoning the project until it gets the greenlight from Ofcom.

In a statement, a BSkyB spokesman said: “We want to invest in Picnic because it will be good for consumers and a good opportunity for Sky. But the blunt truth is that Ofcom has spent 18 months looking at our proposals, and there is no end in sight.

“The Picnic team have done everything they can to prepare for launch, and there’s nothing left to be achieved until Ofcom makes its mind up.

“While regulation works at its own pace, no business can go on like this indefinitely, so we’ve had to make some pragmatic decisions. We will decide whether to reactivate the project when we have regulatory clarity.”

This statement is unlikely to improve relations between the News Corp.-backed paybox and Ofcom, which recently ordered it to cut its holding in commercial web ITV.

At one time, around 70 people were working on Picnic. The decision to mothball the service could lead to the loss of up to 28 jobs.