Sky to cut num­ber of gam­bling ads screened dur­ing sport

The Sunday Telegraph - - Politics - By Christo­pher Wil­liams DEPUTY BUSI­NESS ED­I­TOR

SKY will dra­mat­i­cally cut the num­ber of gam­bling ad­ver­tise­ments it shows amid ris­ing con­cern over ad­dic­tion and the promi­nence of bet­ting in sport.

The pay-TV gi­ant will im­pose a limit of one gam­bling ad­ver­tise­ment per com­mer­cial break on its channels from the start of the next Pre­mier League sea­son in Au­gust. At present, up to four bet­ting pro­mo­tions are shown dur­ing each com­mer­cial break, with slots dur­ing live matches on Sky Sports in high de­mand to at­tract “in play” bet­ting.

The re­stric­tions will ap­ply to all channels for which Sky sells ad­ver­tis­ing slots, in­clud­ing Chan­nel 5, which is owned by Vi­a­com, the US me­dia group. All forms of gam­bling, in­clud­ing bingo and on­line poker, will be covered.

The move will add to pres­sure on the gam­bling in­dus­try, which al­ready faces a gov­ern­ment crack­down on lu­cra­tive fixed-odds bet­ting ter­mi­nals. Tracey Crouch, the sports min­is­ter, re­signed last week over a de­lay in plans to slash the max­i­mum stake al­lowed by such ma­chines from £100 to £2.

Self-im­posed re­stric­tions are ex­pected to cost Sky tens of mil­lions of pounds in an­nual rev­enue. Gam­bling ac­counts for about £200mil­lion per year in tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tis­ing sales, and Sky is thought to con­trol nearly half of the mar­ket. The full im­pact is dif­fi­cult to as­sess, partly be­cause ad­ver­tis­ing slots on Sky Sports are auc­tioned, so prices may rise when sup­ply is cur­tailed.

From 2020, Sky will al­low view­ers to ex­clude gam­bling from com­mer­cial breaks en­tirely. Tech­nol­ogy built into set-top boxes will in­sert al­ter­na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing in its place. Sky, which is owned by Com­cast, the vast US me­dia group, is vol­un­tar­ily re­strict­ing gam­bling ad­ver­tis­ing amid calls for new reg­u­la­tory mea­sures.

Bet­ting com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing the owner of Lad­brokes, have called for a ban on tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tis­ing be­fore 9pm. It would save them tens of mil­lions of pounds and give high street op­er­a­tors a boost over on­line-only ri­vals such as Bet365 and Bet­fair.

The in­dus­try has ploughed money into ad­ver­tis­ing since the Labour gov­ern­ment scrapped strict rules in 2007. Ac­cord­ing to Nielsen, the mar­ket re­search com­pany, the in­dus­try spent a to­tal of £1.4bil­lion on ad­ver­tis­ing be­tween 2012 and 2017. Of that, £430mil­lion was spent to pro­mote sports gam­bling.

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