“Rather like newspapers, free-TV networks have been gripped by this desire to throw all their content online for free,” Mike Darcey, Sky’s chief operating officer, has told the Broadcasting Press Guild.
Darcey said US networks that had pooled their resources in Hulu were now having second thoughts and were beginning to ask questions over how much traditional revenue was being cannibalised by the new forms of distribution.
“In the UK we have our own equivalent, which is the terrestrial broadcasters rushed into their online players to the PC, and now you have the YouView story taking it forward and bringing their online offerings to the TV screen. You can see why the BBC did that, they’ve got no revenue to lose”.
Darcey questioned as to whether it was right for the commercial terrestrial broadcasters to have followed the BBC’s strategy so closely and said he sensed they were now asking themselves whether it was the right thing to do.
Sky itself has just announced Sky Anywhere, which wraps together the satcaster’s various streamed services including Sky Mobile and Sky Player. Like its VOD service Sky Anytime, the new Sky Anywhere will be bundled under a single pricepoint, and included as part of Sky’s wider subscription packages.
Darcey issued a warning over what he described as a swarm of distribution businesses that were now seeking access to content and had been encouraged to do so by Ofcom as part of the regulator’s pay-TV review. “Essentially what is going on there is that Ofcom is very keen to maximise the prospect for entry of more and more new distributors, be they DTT or IPTV, but ignoring the incentive to invest in content by both Sky and others as well”.
The new entrants wanted content to drive their business when, according to Darcey, their real aims were to sell, a device, mobile or broadband access, or build their own online aggregation businesses. “They say they want to be your friend, but I think you need to be aware, they are entirely happy if your content becomes commoditised and they don’t really have any long term interest in the health of your content”.
For its part Darcey said Sky expected to spend 1.4 billion on UK rights and UK production in the UK over the next year, which he said was unusual for a pay-TV business, both in the UK and beyond.