Comcast Names Dana Strong Group CEO of Sky; Jeremy Darroch Upped to Executive Chairman

Borrowing a page from The Walt Disney Co., Comcast Jan. 6 announced that Sky Group CEO Jeremy Darroch will move from his current role to become executive chairman of Sky, and Dana Strong will succeed him as group CEO, reporting to Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.

Darroch is one of the longest-serving leaders of a major British company, having been CEO of Sky since 2007, and Group CFO since 2004. During that time, he has tripled the size of the business and led the transformation of the company into Europe’s largest multi-platform TV provider with nearly 24 million customers. Jeremy has accelerated the development of award-winning technology and championed Sky’s broader contribution to the society and communities in which it operates, overseeing the expansion of its commitment to sport, U.K., and European originated content, in-depth news, the arts, young people, and the environment.

Jeremy Darroch

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Strong most recently served as president of consumer services for Comcast Cable, the largest broadband and TV provider in the U.S. with nearly 33 million customer relationships. In this role, she was responsible for Comcast’s residential business and has led innovative new product and market launches in broadband, video, home security, and mobile. During her tenure, the company achieved record subscriber and broadband growth and the company’s highest levels of customer satisfaction.

With more than 25 years of international experience in global telecommunications and media in the U.K. and European markets, Strong was previously president/COO of Virgin Media in the U.K., Chief Transformation Officer of Liberty Global as well as CEO of UPC Ireland and COO of AUSTAR in Australia.

“I would like to thank Jeremy for his exceptional leadership of Sky and his partnership since we acquired the company,” Roberts said in a statement. “Sky’s values have been a perfect fit for ours and I credit Jeremy with building an incredible culture and executing the seamless integration with Comcast. He and his team have established a world-class brand and a strong, well-run business that will continue to flourish. Jeremy has been a terrific colleague to me and everyone at Sky, but I respect his decision and I am pleased that he’s agreed to stay on to help with the transition and advise the company.”

Roberts said Strong is an accomplished executive with an extraordinary ability to transform, inspire and drive positive change. He said the executive made her mark on our U.S. business, driving growth and innovation with her leadership and track record at some of the largest media and telecommunications companies in the world.

“[This] make[s] her the perfect leader for Sky,” Roberts said.

Darroch said the decision to exit the CEO position was not easy after 13 years at the helm. But with the business firmly settled into the wider Comcast corporate structure, it was the right time to change.

“I would like to thank all of my colleagues at Sky and also Brian and the team at Comcast who I have thoroughly enjoyed working with,” said Darroch. “I have no doubt that Dana will take Sky into a new and exciting future. Her proven record for leading telecommunications and media businesses coupled with her experience in the U.S., U.K., and Europe will be great assets to Sky, and I look forward to working with her as she takes the reins.”

The corporate move is similar to Disney’s decision last year elevating longtime CEO Bob Iger to executive chairman, and promoting former home entertainment executive Bob Chapek to lead the media giant.

Presidential Candidate Warren Seeks to Regulate Big Tech, Gets Indirect Support from Sky Boss

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for president in the 2020 election, wants to break up the mega tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — citing antitrust issues.

Specifically, Warren would classify the tech companies with annual global revenue above $25 billion as “platform utilities,” thereby forcing them to split up business units within their corporate structures.

The lawmaker would also look to unwind what she called “anti-competitive” mergers such as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and Zappos; Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google purchase of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick.

Indeed, Warren claims nearly 50% of all e-commerce is generated by Amazon, while 70% of Web traffic migrates through sites owned and operated by Google and Facebook.

The senator, in a March 8 post, argued that the federal government’s lawsuit in the 1990s against Microsoft regarding its (then) dominance in Web browsing paved the way for the emergence of companies such as Google and Facebook.

“Aren’t we all glad that now we have the option of using Google instead of being stuck with Bing?” Warren wrote. “The story demonstrates why promoting competition is so important: it allows new, groundbreaking companies to grow and thrive — which pushes everyone in the marketplace to offer better products and services.”

Notably, at an investor confab in London, Jeremy Darroch, group CEO at Comcast-owned European satellite TV operator Sky, questioned the U.K. government’s lack of oversight on big tech.

Jeremy Darroch

“My first instinct in these situations is always to look for self-regulation,” Darroch told the Deloitte Enders Media and Telecoms Conference 2019. “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 recognize this is one of those times.”

Darroch contends that as big tech’s reach permeates into all aspects of society, their approach to rules and practices will be self-serving and not necessarily to the betterment of the individual.

He said traditional broadcasters and pay-TV operators must adhere to regulation on content, while video delivered through YouTube and Facebook is given a free pass.

“This is in part because we are in an entirely different world to the one tech platforms were born into,” Darroch said. “Where policy makers once saw their role as fanning the flames of growth for these businesses, they now recognize that they need to apply the same framework to this sector as they do every other.”

Sky Boss Jeremy Darroch Says He’s ‘Sticking Around’ Euro Pay-TV Operator Following Comcast’s Acquisition

Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of Comcast Corp.’s newly-owned Sky subsidiary, said he plans on remaining at the U.K. satellite TV operator following Comcast’s $40 billion acquisition.

Speaking Oct. 25 on Comcast’s fiscal call, Darroch said he looked forward to leading Sky, which has more than 15 million subscribers, including subsidiaries Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia.

“We’re all energized by the next phase of growth and the additional opportunities that being part of Comcast will bring, on top of delivering our existing plans,” he said.

The news seemed to please Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts, who introduced Darroch on the fiscal call. Indeed, for Darroch – who received a $47.4 million golden parachute following the close of the acquisition – not remaining at Sky could have proved a challenge to Comcast’s nascent international strategies.

“We’re really excited and pleased with the [Sky] management team” said Roberts. “We are delighted that Jeremy and many of the team, the senior team, we hope and believe are going to stay with the company.”

With Roberts agreeing to pay more than twice what 21stCentury Fox offered for outstanding interest in Sky, media analysts in the United States have questioned how the deal will be accretive for Comcast shareholders going forward.

“It seems as though they would like investors to forget that Sky is also a satellite TV provider, and satellite video distribution is increasingly becoming obsolete,” Craig Moffett, with MoffettNathanson Research, wrote in a note last month.