In an analyst call CEO Jeremy Darroch illustrated how investment in new technology and programming was paying dividends – at the same time providing a shop window on why 21st Century Fox and Comcast are involved in a £26 billion tug of love for the broadcaster.
Darroch said Sky was entering the year with good momentum: “Over half a million new customers joined Sky this year and we now have 63 million products in customer’s homes as they continue to choose Sky over other providers. As a consequence, we have extended our leadership position as Europe’s largest direct-to-consumer media and entertainment business.”
Next generation set-top Sky Q is now in 3.6 million homes, an increase of 2.3 million year-on-year.
Over the next 12 months its planned to introduce a hands free voice control with customers interacting directly with the Sky Q box; there will also be a new kids mode and the rollout of the Sky Soundbox in Germany and Italy.
The dishless version of Sky Q will be introduced in Austria and Italy, targeting customers who are unable to install a satellite dish.
Darroch promised 25% more hours of drama, 50% of which would be returning series, in Germany where the originals strategy is least developed there will be a four-fold increase in investment. “To do this we’re going to increase our investment further and fund this by making smart choices elsewhere. Typically spending around £130 million per year less on second tier sports and linear only entertainment channels”.
In sport, Darroch said there was good visibility on 90% of sports rights through to 2021. The biggest change would be in Italy where Sky had secured the vast majority of Serie A and Champions League action, along with motorsport (Italy’s second most popular sport). Sky would also benefit from free-to-air coverage being on its own TV8.
OTT offers have been launched in Switzerland and Spain, though marketing activity has been held back in recent months.
In Switzerland the intention is to broaden out the offer beyond the current sports focus.