Advanced Television

Sky’s Darroch: ‘Comcast benefits flowing both ways’

March 8, 2019

By Colin Mann

Jeremy Darroch, Group Chief Executive, Sky, has suggested that just a few months after Comcast’s September 2018 takeover of the pay-TV operator, “clear benefits” of the tie-up were “flowing both ways”, and also added his weight to the debate regarding regulation of global tech giants.

Speaking at the Deloitte Enders Media and Telecoms Conference 2019 in London, Darroch told delegates that Sky would always be willing to adapt its business model to fit the needs of the consumer rather than expect them to adapt to meet the needs of its business, adding that being part of the Comcast family only enhanced and underwrote its ability to do more, move faster and better serve its customers and audiences.

“Together we have almost 50 million of the world’s most valuable pay television households, already represent around 12 per cent of the world’s video and broadband revenues and we spend over $24 billion a year on acquiring and producing programming,” he reported. “We are amongst the very largest of sports and news broadcasters globally and handle a meaningful proportion of the world’s daily Internet traffic with our fast broadband networks on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Just a few months after first coming together, we are already seeing clear benefits flowing in both directions. For example, we’ll be bringing Comcast’s own voice interface to Sky Q later this year and our broadband customers in Italy will benefit from Comcast’s xFi product,” he advised. “When NBCU launch an AVoD service in the US next year, it’ll be Sky’s OTT technology platform that has helped to enable that. We are making good use of each other’s content on screen, are working to serve our global advertisers better and all the while becoming a more capable and a more efficient organisation. We have started transferring Sky colleagues to the US and Comcast colleagues to Europe. And we have been together for less than six months,” he noted, adding that he found the combination “very compelling”, suggesting that the next few years at Sky will see it unlock many more opportunities in Europe as well as contributing significantly to the overall Comcast family.

“This commitment not just to change, but to permanent renewal speaks deeply about who we are, how we see the world and what we believe we need to do. And if I reflect on my own time running Sky it’s been the single biggest change in our business. Bigger than any product or initiative and I believe firmly embedded now in our mindset ,” he declared.

Alluding to the power of large corporations and their responsibilities, he suggested that ‘move fast and break things’ could work for a start-up; but when you’re among the biggest, most powerful companies in the world, it may not be possible to fix the things you break.

“My first instinct in these situations is always to look for self-regulation,” he admitted. “But there are times when that approach won’t work. And I am pleased that the government, and indeed politicians of all persuasion have come together to recognise this is one of those times.

He suggested that it was “illogical” that if you watch something on your TV it is highly regulated, but if that video comes through YouTube or Facebook, the current UK policy framework gives it a “free pass”. “This is in part because we are in an entirely different world to the one tech platforms were born into. Where policy makers once saw their role as fanning the flames of growth for these businesses, they now recognise that they need to apply the same framework to this sector as they do every other. “A framework organised around rules, oversight, and consequences,” he said.

“Because we know that without that, these organisations will keep changing in ways that suit them, but not necessarily society. Social media and digital technology can deliver so much good, but we all now accept it has a dangerous dark side. It needs rules just as much as TV does or financial services or any other powerful part of our society,” he stated.

“The rise of social media and the algorithms they rely upon is just one part of the way our world is changing. But, let’s not think about this change as a unique feature of a particular time. Let’s see it for what it is: permanent and profound,” he declared.

“The challenge for all of us – in business and in government – is to design systems and processes that can make the most of the constantly-changing world. And to step into that, not kick the can down the road,” he argued.

“It starts by recognising that our achievements in the past are never going to be enough to secure success in the future. They are a floor not a ceiling.”

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