Gambling advertising bans hurt Sky TV ad revenue

25 October 2019

Comcast-owned media giant Sky said that a 18.2% decrease in advertising revenue in the third quarter of this year was largely due to the whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling advertising in the UK and new gambling advertising restrictions in Italy.

Advertising revenue fell from $545m (£424.5mm/€490.1m) in the third quarter of 2018 to $446m in the third quarter of 2019, the first quarter since the ban came into effect.

In its quarterly report, Comcast said the decline “reflects an unfavorable impact from a change in legislation related to gambling advertisements in the UK and Italy, as well as overall market weakness.”

The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) introduced the whistle-to-whistle ban in December 2018. Under the ban, no gambling advertising can now be shown on pre-watershed sports from five minutes before a sporting event begins until five minutes after the event finishes, with the exception of horse and greyhound racing.

The UK whistle-to-whistle ban was introduced on 1 August 2018, meaning that Sky’s figures refer only to two months of activity since it came into effect. With football’s English Premier League only starting on 10 August, the ban may also have a larger effect on future quarters that include three full months of Premier League games.

Italy, meanwhile, introduced a total ban on gambing advertising on 1 January. As well as television advertising, commercial communications such as product placement, the distribution of branded items (including competitions with branded products as prizes), advertorials and influencer marketing are all banned.

Advertising as a whole made up only 9.8% of Sky’s revenue, while the difference between 2018 and 2019 third-quarter advertising revenue came to 2% of the company’s total revenue.

Sky previously owned operator Sky Betting and Gaming, but sold the majority of the business to private equity group CVC in 2015 before the Stars Group purchased both CVC's portion of the comapny and Sky's remaining 20% in 2018.