British Satellite Broadcasting, operated The Sports Channel, which launched in April 1990. In the BSB years, it shared the same frequency with its underpromoted sister channel, the Computer Channel, which broadcast in the mornings when the Sports Channel was off-air.
BSB merged with Sky Television plc to form British Sky Broadcasting. Sky Television had co-founded another sports network known as Eurosport with the European Broadcasting Union. Eurosport was the subject of a complaint by a competitor, Screensport, who argued that the venture had the effect of restricting and distorting competition in the sports market. Sky later pulled out of the venture, and the channel was later sold to the TF1 Group and merged with Screensport.
The Sports Channel was renamed Sky Sports on 20 April 1991, and began broadcasting to Sky viewers via the newly launched Astra 1B satellite on that date, alongside its existing transmissions on BSB's Marcopolo satellite. The channel was sold as one of the major draws of the Sky system and initially aired sports such as and golf in 1991, before acquiring rights to German and Italian league football in 1996 (both carried over from the Sports Channel). The channel was initially encrypted but broadcast free-to-view, requiring an analogue VideoCrypt decoder, but no paid subscription, to be viewed. Since VideoCrypt decoders were only officially available within the UK, this measure was intended to prevent viewing of the service outside the UK and Ireland.
However, it was following the formation of the Premier League for the 1992/93 football season, believed to have been assisted by the promise of higher TV payments, that Sky Sports became well known. By bidding £304m, BSkyB beat the BBC and ITV to acquire the live and exclusive Premier League broadcasting rights for the United Kingdom and Ireland for a five-year period. In doing so, they had taken live top-flight English league football from terrestrial and free-to-air television for the first time ever. At this point, Sky Sports became a subscription channel, available with a monthly subscription on a standalone basis, or at a reduced price if taken with Sky's movie channels.
On 19 August 1994, a secondary channel called Sky Sports 2 was launched. Likewise, the original service was renamed Sky Sports 1. On 1 November 1995, Sky launched a classic sports channel called Sky Sports Gold. However, the channel ceased broadcasting after only a year on the air. On 16 August 1996, Sky launched Sky Sports 3. Sky Sports also acquired the rights to Scottish football and the League Cup.
Sky Sports share of viewing 2000–07
With the launch of the Sky Digital satellite platform in October 1998, Sky Sports launched Sky Sports News—a channel carrying rolling sports news coverage, in March 1999, followed by Sky Sports Xtra (later branded as Sky Sports 4 since 2010) in April.
During a Premier League match on 22 August 1999, Sky Sports launched an interactive television service known as Sky Sports Active via the digital platform, allowing viewers to watch matches with access to additional on-screen statistics, and a choice of alternate camera angles and replays. Sky expected to extend the interactive services to other sports the following year.
Sky Sports' football coverage was at the centre of controversy in January 2011 when footage emerged of presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys making comments perceived as sexist. On 25 January 2011, Gray was sacked over the comments. On 25 January 2011, fellow reporter Andy Burton was suspended by Sky due to his involvement in the sexist comments made about a female assistant referee, Sian Massey, which also involved Gray and Keys. However, unlike Gray and Keys, Burton later returned to his regular duties at Sky.
Om 29 July 2011, it was announced that Sky Sports had acquired rights to Formula One racing from 2012 through 2018, with the BBC to share free-to-air rights to roughly half of the events, and have highlights rights for the remainder. Sky subsequently announced that it would introduce a new channel dedicated specifically to its coverage, Sky Sports F1, which would air practices, qualifying, and advert-free coverage of each race; the channel was made available at no extra charge to all Sky high-definition subscribers, regardless of whether they were a Sky Sports subscriber. Sky extended its contract in 2016, to last through 2024; beginning in 2019, Sky will hold exclusive rights to all F1 races.
On 12 August 2014, Sky launched Sky Sports 5, which would be dedicated primarily to European football, including UEFA European Championship qualifiers, La Liga and the Eredivisie.
On 24 August 2016, Sky launched Sky Sports Mix, a new channel designed to offer a sampling of content from the full range of Sky Sports networks to those who are not subscribers. On Sky, the channel is included as a basic channel with all plans, and was also available on certain Virgin Media packages on-launch.
Channel re-alignment and expansion (2017)
On 18 July 2017, Sky re-aligned its sports channels, dropping the numbered services in favour of dedicated channels devoted to their core sports properties, including cricket, Formula One, golf, and two football channels (with one specifically dedicated to the Premier League), and three channels dedicated to general sports coverage. In addition, Sky announced that it would revise the pricing structure of the channels to make them more attractive to viewers; Sky customers can purchase up to three of the channels on an a la carte basis, or the entire bundle. On Sky's Now TV service, the entire Sky Sports service continues to be available through the timed pass system. The availability and packaging of the new service varies on other providers.