BSkyB calls pitch as it seeks to boost digital take-up

LONDON - BSkyB is staging a pitch for its UK consumer PR account as it bids to boost take-up of Sky Digital subscriptions in ABC1 households.

Incumbent agency Cohn & Wolfe is in the running for the business, with an agency set to be appointed by March 2003, according to BSkyB director of communications and corporate affairs Julian Eccles.

Eccles said there was no dissatisfaction with C&W's work, and that he "enjoys a good relationship" with the agency.

He insisted the repitch was 'routine, prudent housekeeping' and that the broadcaster reviewed similar external contracts 'around every two years'.

Pitches are set to take place between mid-January and mid-February, and around six agencies are likely to make the shortlist, according to Eccles.

The budget for the contract is understood to be in the region of £200,000 per year.

"We are an upmarket ABC1-skewed product. We want to maintain and extend that customer base but ABC1s will continue to be the focus," said Eccles.

Sky Digital currently has around 6.3m subscribers and the channel is seeking to increase this to 7m by the end of 2003.

Eccles said there was "plenty of scope" for BSkyB to boost its subscriber base from affluent, middle-class families with children, a group he termed "established families".

He said that BSkyB's account with Portland PR for corporate work was not under review.

More than 350 channels are available from Sky Digital, which launched in October 1998.

C&W was hired in 2001 to undertake the first PR drive to boost subscriptions to the platform. Since then it has undertaken consumer PR campaigns to boost take-up of Sky Digital.

The agency reports to Eccles, in addition to consumer PR head Gabby Bennett and director of publicity John Brissenden.

C&W managing director Jonathan Shore said: "Repitches are a fact of life. We are upbeat about our chances of renewing our relationship with Sky."

BSkyB, which is 36% owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has performed well in 2002, recording a pre-tax profit of £43m in the months up to 30 September, compared with a £23m loss the previous year.

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