Gary Davey, Managing Director, Content, Sky, has suggested that going forward, the pan-European broadcaster will focus increasingly on entertainment, declaring that done properly, the genre could be just as engaging as football, a mainstay of Sky’s UK business and an important component of its German and Italian operations.
In a Royal Television Society ‘In conversation with’ event, Davy, a veteran of Sky’s original DTH satellite launch in the 1980s, recalled that it was “all about infrastructure in those days, it wasn’t really about content” noting that developments in set-top box technology, space segment availability and dish design had come together late in the decade, enabling the 1989 launch of the original Sky channels
He noted that senior company executives regularly referred to the mantra of content, innovation and service. “That’s always been at the core of the business,” he observed. “We’ve got an executive and leadership team who completely get the content idea,” he declared, revealing that in 2016, Sky would be spending about £5 billion on content, which included sports and entertainment, and said that it was not cutting entertainment budgets, despite the additional sums being paid for Premier League rights. “Our entertainment budgets are growing at a faster rate than they ever have previously. It’s a very healthy proposition,” he suggested.
“An important part of my job going forward is to make entertainment a primary reason to get Sky, and that’s a really important task we have,” he said, admitting that Sky had “a long way to go” with entertainment. “We’ve got to think very carefully what’s going to drive customer engagement. If we get our storytelling in entertainment right, it’s just as engaging as football,” he said.
Dismissing criticism from an article in the New Statesman which suggested that Sky’s dramas had limited viewing figures, he noted that with its recent drama The Last Panthers, in its first week, just 16 per cent of its consumption was live viewing. “The rest of it was through various consumption methods our technology allows. We don’t care where, when or on what device the customer consumes the content, we just want the customer engaged with the content.”
He described the metric of ‘Share of Viewing’ as “evil incarnate”, making broadcasters “complete victims to the tyranny of ratings”, suggesting that you are only thinking about live TV, which he said made no sense at all. He noted that currently BARB doesn’t measure total consumption, but that Sky could collate that itself. “But even that doesn’t measure what matters most. What matters most is whether the customer is prepared to keep paying. The moment we lose that engagement …. that desire to keep paying for the product, then we’ve got big troubles.”