Netflix, Sky Re-Up Distribution Agreement

Comcast’s love affair with Netflix expands overseas. The cable giant’s Sky satellite TV subsidiary in the United Kingdom has renewed a distribution agreement with Netflix first inked in 2018.

Under terms of the new deal, Sky subscribers will be able to access Netflix on Sky Q, including Netflix originals “The Witcher,” The Irishman and “Sex Education.”

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“This is a great start to what is set to be another strong year for Sky,” CEO Stephen van Rooyen with Sky U.K. and Ireland, said in a statement. “Our customers love Netflix content and our partnership continues to go from strength to strength, we plan to launch new channels and genres, start building our new studio, Sky Studios Elstree, and we’ll have great new and returning Sky originals too.”

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BritBox U.K. Expansion Undermined by Sky Cold Shoulder

BritBox, the British-themed SVOD founded in the United States in 2017, has encountered a significant roadblock expanding service in the U.K.

The joint venture between the BBC and ITV has reportedly been given the distribution cold shoulder by Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky and its 10 million subscribers.

BritBox, with 670,000 subs in the United States, was looking for Sky to help it gain a foothold in a U.K. market already inundated by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, with Disney+ coming in March, 2020.

Amy Jones, a former senior content manager with Amazon Prime Video, was hired in January as managing editor of BritBox to improve content programming.

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Sky, which operates online TV service Now TV, has a direct-access SVOD deal with Netflix.

“We’ll continue to discuss new partnerships with a range of content providers, but we remain disciplined in investing in those new partnerships where they clearly deliver additional value to our customers,” Sky said in a statement.

BritBox is reportedly close to securing distribution deals with Google Chromecast, among others.

“We are looking forward to extending the number of partners we have to enable BritBox to get to more and more homes,” ITV said in a statement.

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Studio Wars: Comcast’s Sky Building New U.K. Production Facility

In the burgeoning over-the-top video streaming world, original content production has become a prerequisite to lure consumers. And the physical space to create movies and TV shows in the United Kingdom is now a new cottage industry.

Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky has announced plans to build a Hollywood-style studio on 32 acres north of London it claims would employ 2,000 people and help it better compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

Dubbed Sky Studios Elstree, the facility would emerge as the European production base for Sky Studios and NBC Universal — corporate parent to Universal Pictures.

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“This was an opportunity to build something brand new, state of the art and at scale,” Gary Davey, CEO of Sky Studios, said in a statement. “It is a big enough site to attract very high-end production in both TV and film from all over the world. We are going to fill this thing with projects of all kinds. It means a huge number of new jobs and new investment.”

Sky Studios has created several hits, including miniseries “Chernobyl” and “Patrick Melrose” for HBO, and the pending “The Third Day,” a six-part drama starring Jude Law co-produced by the WarnerMedia subsidiary.

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Sky has said it plans to double spending on original content, reaching £1 billion ($1.3 billion) annually over the next five years.

Netflix earlier this year inked a long-term lease with Shepperton Studios to better produce original content across the studios’ 14 sound stages.

Disney then upped the ante, announcing it would lease legendary Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, U.K. — production home to many James Bond movies.

“It’s wonderful to have Disney here at Pinewood. They’ve been making great films with us for many years and the fact they want to shoot so many more here is testimony not only to the quality of the teams and infrastructure at Pinewood, but also to the British film industry as a whole,” the studio said in a statement.

 

‘E.T.’ Friends Reunite to Market Xfinity and Sky Technology

Comcast NBCUniversal is reuniting E.T. and Elliott — iconic characters from Universal Pictures’ 1982 classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial — to market Xfinity and Sky technology.

In a short made in connection with the Comcast-owned studio, E.T. is back on earth for a surprise visit with Elliott (Henry Thomas reprising his role), who now has his own family. Although technology has changed the world since they’ve last seen each other 37 years ago, their connection and friendship remain strong.

The two-minute version of the story will debut during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC in the United States, and then the full-length, four-minute version will be immediately available at xfinity.com/ET.

The company will be featuring the film on Syfy on Thanksgiving Day and making it available on demand for Xfinity TV customers. Xfinity TV customers with X1 will be able to say “E.T. Phone Home” into their voice remote for an E.T.-themed destination. Anyone who visits a Xfinity retail location can pick up an E.T. coloring book and candy.

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“The audience is going to get everything they want out of a sequel without the messy bits that could destroy the beauty of the original and the special place it has in people’s minds and hearts. It’s really a win-win,” stated Thomas, who starred in director Steven Spielberg’s classic as the 10-year-old boy who helps a lost alien find his way home. “Looking at the storyboards, I could see exactly why Steven was really behind it, because the integrity of the story isn’t lost in this retelling.”

“More than anything, the whole story is about family,” added short director Lance Acord in a statement.

“Our goal is to show how Xfinity and Sky technology connects family, friends and loved ones, which is so important during the holidays,” said Peter Intermaggio, SVP for marketing communications, Comcast Cable. “The classic friendship between E.T. and Elliott resonates around the world, and their story became a very meaningful way to bring our company’s consumer technology to life.”

WarnerMedia, Comcast’s Sky Extend Content Distribution Deal

HBO Max may be the future, but distribution across existing and competing platforms overseas is just as important.

WarnerMedia has extended a distribution agreement with Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky in Europe.

First established in 2010, the new agreement includes distribution through HBO of Warner Bros. movies, Cartoon Network and Boomerang episodic programming.

Content has included “Watchmen,” “Succession” and “Big Little Lies,” in addition to Sky originals such as “Patrick Melrose,” “Babylon Berlin” and “Gomorrah.”

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“Our partnership with HBO, and now Warner Media, has never been stronger as Sky continues to thrive as Europe’s leading direct-to-consumer media and entertainment business,” Gary Davey, CEO of Sky Studios, said in a statement. “Customers love our Sky original productions and together, Sky Studios and HBO Max will bring them more unique stories that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Sky and WarnerMedia also extended co-production deals with Sky Studios and HBO Max working together on original content.

Co-production Chernobyl garnered 10 Primetime Emmys, and latest co-production “Catherine the Great,” with Helen Mirren, received critical acclaim following its U.K. broadcast debut this month.

“We are thrilled to find new ways to deepen our longstanding relationship with Sky, and bring a fresh dimension to the great content we continue to bring to consumers,” said Jeffrey Schlesinger, president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution, in a statement.

Sky Original Content Productions Spur Q3 Revenue Growth

Sky original content productions continue to drive the United Kingdom satellite TV operator’s bottom line.

The Comcast-owned subsidiary Oct. 24 reported that original content and sports programming increased third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) revenue 15.4% to $315 million from $273 million during the previous-year period.

Pre-tax earnings skyrocketed 46% to $899 million from $650 million during the previous-year period. Revenue declined 0.9% to $4.5 billion from $4.7 billion last year.

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Specifically, Sky has triumphed from original series licensing of “Chernobyl,” “Patrick Melrose” and “Catherine The Great” to HBO.

Sky credited “Chernobyl,” which won 12 Primetime Emmys, for driving record subscriber growth in Q2. With the conclusion of the series’ initial broadcast, Sky said net customer relationships dropped in Q3 by 99,000.

Still total consumer relationships, which includes over-the-top video platform Now TV, have increased by 482,000 in the past 12 months.

Sky ended the period with 23.9 million subscribers, up 2.1% from 23.4 million during the previous-year period.

Grandi Notizie: Netflix Expands Italian Presence

Italy in 2020 will begin imposing a 3% tax on digital services generating at least €5.5 million ($6 million) in annual revenue.

While the political move targets American streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the pending Disney+ platform, Netflix is hardly scaling back its Italian operations.

The SVOD pioneer, which reportedly has 1.5 million subscribers in Italy, has inked a deal with Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky Italia offering subscribers direct access to the service.

Netflix will be available to Entertainment Plus and Sky Q Platinum subscribers.

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Netflix began its partnership with Sky in 2018 in the United Kingdom, followed by Sky Deutschland.

“We [want to] make it easier for Sky customers and Italian families to access the complete Netflix experience,” Filippo Zuffada, EMEA partner marketing director at Netflix, said in a statement.

Indeed, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was Italy this week to announce the opening of an office in the country as well as plans to invest €200 million ($220 million) in original Italian content production.

Establishing an office in Italy would also mitigate efforts by lawmakers seeking taxes from foreign online companies (notably Netflix) doing business within the country’s borders without a physical presence.

Netflix’s investment follows a previously-announced pact with Italian broadcaster Mediaset for the co-production of original Italian movies.

 

NBC Universal Assumes Sky Vision Production/Distribution Unit

Sky Vision, the U.K. satellite distributor’s production and distribution unit, is now operating under the NBC Universal corporate umbrella.

The move was disclosed by Sky Vision in a social media post: “On October 1, Sky Vision Content Sales transitions to NBCUniversal Distribution. Join us each weekday during September to celebrate The Best of Sky Vision.”

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NBC Universal parent Comcast acquired Sky last September for $31 billion.

Sky Vision original TV productions include “Riviera,” HBO’s “Patrick Melrose” and the upcoming HBO original series,”Catherine The Great,” staring Helen Mirren.

Comcast Sheds 107,000 Q1 Video Subs; Sky Adds 112K

Subscriber losses to linear pay-TV in the United States keep adding up.

Comcast April 25 said it lost 107,000 residential video subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. That compared to a loss of 93,000 video subs in the previous-year period.

Comcast Cable ended the period with 20.8 million video subs, down 358,000 subs from the previous-year period.

The cable operator also lost 14,000 business video subs to end the period with about 1.01 million compared to 1.05 million last year.

Offsetting in part video sub declines, Comcast added 352,000 high-speed Internet customers, up 1,000 from last year.

The company ended the period with 25.4 million broadband subs compared to 24.2 million last year.

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Comcast also added 23,000 broadband business customers to top 2.1 million customers – up from 2 million in the previous-year period.

“Comcast Cable had the best quarterly [pre-tax] growth in over a decade,” Comcast chairman Brian Roberts said in a statement.

Separately, new business unit Sky upped its total subscriber count by 112,000 compared to a gain of 38,000 subs in the previous-year period.

The London-based satellite operator with business units in Germany and Italy ended the period with 23.7 million subs – up 809,000 subs from 22.9 million customers last year.

Sky generated $3.8 billion in direct-to-consumer revenue, which was down from $4.1 billion last year. DTC revenue also includes transactions such as packaged media, over-the-top video daily, weekly and monthly passes, pay-per-view and “buy-to-keep” content.

The Sky Store includes a DVD with every digital movie/TV show purchase.

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.”