In her first on-stage interview since she became CEO of European pay-TV giant Sky, Dana Strong discussed the Comcast-owned broadcaster’s recent deal with ViacomCBS in Europe, the potential sale of Channel 4 and her favorite TV shows.
Strong became Sky Group CEO in early 2021, taking over from longtime boss Jeremy Darroch, who led the company for 13 years. Prior to taking the reins at Sky, Strong was President of Consumer Services for Comcast Cable, and before that served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Virgin Media and Chief Transformation Officer of Liberty Global.
In her discussion with Sky journalist Beth Rigby, Strong regularly sounded notes of optimism about how the company was responding to the challenges posed by SVODs and shifting viewing habits.
“Our industry is incredibly resilient and adaptable. The level of innovation gives me an enormous confidence. Despite all the rumored demise in the press, the big brands are all still standing and growing. Viewership is growing, the values of these companies are going up.”
She continued: “I don’t respond to all the rumored anxieties in the market. You need to look at the fundamentals. I see a very developed PSB and vibrant market place that is still growing. I see an extraordinary production group and talent group in the UK. The foundations are really rock solid. The UK has always been a leader in innovation.”
Strong said there were multiple benefits from Sky being owned by Comcast, including the ability to see and respond to trends more quickly through shared data, product innovation and enhanced content creation and distribution.
The exec pointed to a recent deal with ViacomCBS for the launch of Sky Showtime in Europe as an example of how the company is looking to partner with supposed rivals to bolster opportunities.
“Our view is that we were better together. We can expand to 20 markets we weren’t in before. The brands work well together, so it’s a great indication of working together to provide a better service to customers.”
One of the main talking points in the UK business in recent months has been the potential sale of Channel 4. Strong was asked how appealing the Great British Bake Off and It’s A Sin broadcaster might be as an asset for Comcast.
The exec batted back the question but didn’t pour cold water on the idea entirely. “It’s really a matter for government. It’s premature to speculate on it until we get more information from government. I think Alex [C4 CEO Alex Mahon] and her team have done a fantastic job. They’ve built an interesting and exciting business and whatever the outcome I expect that we’ll continue to be partners together.”
Strong was asked about how Comcast CEO Brian Roberts’ acquisitions strategy might marry with a takeover of Channel 4: “Brian Roberts has had a good and interesting track record [in terms of acquisitions] but he’s very selective. He is surgical and refined in his taste. Acquisitions have been important to accelerate growth but it’s not scattershot.”
As a “fun” last question, Strong was asked to name some of the shows she and her family most enjoy watching. Among them were Sky drama Zero Zero Zero, BBC dramas Vigil and Killing Eve, Apple TV’s Ted Lasso and Netflix’s Drive To Survive.
Sky generates $18.6BN in revenue, employs 34,000 people across Europe, and connects 24 million customers across six countries. Like many, the firm was severely hampered by the pandemic and saw a 22.5% drop in earnings for the first nine months of last year.
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