Sky’s new owner thinks it has a secret weapon to fight the streamers
Sky’s departure from the FTSE 100 last week signalled the end of almost three decades of Murdoch control and has set the scene for its new owner, Comcast, to grapple with a big strategic challenge: the rise of streaming services. Comcast’s boss, Brian Roberts, has pledged to avoid meddling with the new acquisition – Comcast may be the biggest cable operator in the US, but it has zero European payTV experience – but he has admitted that one Sky jewel has caught his attention. Now TV, an on-demand streaming service, is Sky’s riposte to Netflix and Roberts believes it could become a global product.
Roberts failed with his initial streaming effort, Watchable. Since then he has sat on the sidelines while the likes of Disney and AT&T, the owner of Warner, have joined the streaming battle against Netflix and Amazon.
Now TV has about 1.5 million UK subscribers, which is hardly a threat to Netflix’s near-10 million, but it is being used as a springboard into European markets, such as Spain, that do not have a Sky subsidiary. The world might follow.
The streaming competition also threatens a cornerstone of Sky’s business: content. Sky’s content deal with Disney expires in 2020 and the Hollywood giant has considerable leverage after it acquired Murdoch’s Fox this year. If Disney’s plans for its own US streaming service prove wildly successful, it may look to pull its content from Sky to bolster its own international ambitions. However, that would be a very big call, given its content is viewed in 23 million Sky homes across Europe.
At least one thing off the “to-do” list appears to be the three-year cycle of worry that is the Premier League. BT has raised the white flag in the bidding wars for football rights and there is no serious competition elsewhere. Streaming, however, is a different ball game.