It is just over two years since Comcast bought Sky for a massive £30.6bn, but it is only now that the company has appointed one of its own senior executives to run the European pay-TV giant. Last month, the dynamic Dana Strong, head of Comcast Cable’s consumer services business, was announced as the successor to Jeremy Darroch, who led Sky for 13 years and was chief financial officer before that.
The new studio is planned to house the production of multiple TV shows and films simultaneously and will be located in Elstree, close to the home of Star Wars and Strictly Come Dancing, Elstree Studios.
Backed by Sky’s recent new owner Comcast, the new studio will be developed in partnership with sister-company NBCUniversal and Legal & General.
Is it just me, or does this account of the relentless march of Sky feel less like a window into the “future of entertainment” and more the TV equivalent of ancient history?
There are glorious deeds and all-conquering heroes. Step forward Jeremy Darroch, and the man who appointed him CEO of Sky, James Murdoch. Not forgetting the tragic fate of doomed and misguided rivals: hold your heads in shame, Setanta and a host of others.
It seems only a few short years ago that the BBC and ITV were thought of as the titans of British media. But all of us in the UK’s traditional media solar system are getting smaller and smaller in the Apple, Amazon and Netflix universe.” Thus said Lord Hall, Director-General of the BBC, in March, as he unveiled the corporation’s plans for its new financial year.
“We need to find new ways to adapt to the changing needs of our audiences, and we need to be able to do it in real time to keep pace with our global competitors,” he continued.
It’s official. Sky, the leading pay-TV platform in the UK, is no longer a Murdoch company. The man most closely identified with the launch and development of the film and footie satellite giant, Rupert Murdoch, signalled his departure late last year, when his 21st Century Fox media behemoth agreed to sell most of its pay-TV and Hollywood studio assets, including a 39% stake in Sky, to Disney for $71bn.
Fox clearly preferred the Mouse to a competing approach from US cable and broadcast combo Comcast.
However it ends, the battle royal for the right to own most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, and all of Sky, reflects deep and significant trends in global media. The resolution (in favour of suitors Disney, Comcast or both) may end up being less important than what the outcome tells us about market dynamics.
This battle is about the response of legacy media to accelerating shifts in consumer behaviour and to the threats posed by the big digital disruptors. In a market where content and distribution are increasingly intermingled and global, size unlocks the prize.
A lot has been written about a recent taxi ride that may change the face of UK television. Brian Roberts, the CEO and Chair of US media and technology company Comcast, was visiting London when he asked his cabbie for his opinion of Sky TV.
It may have seemed like an innocent question, but the driver was so effusive about Sky that, so the story goes, the next thing you know, Comcast was launching an audacious £22bn bid to buy the UK-based pay-TV giant.