WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS, Sky Partner to Launch Captions on U.K. Children’s Programming

In a move to improve literacy among young children, WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS and Comcast-owned Sky have partnered on a platform called “Turn on the Subtitles” to roll out captioning on more than 500 episodes of children’s programming in the United Kingdom.

Poor literacy skills can hold a person back throughout their life and currently one in four children in the U.K. leave primary school without being able to read fluently. Turning on same-language subtitles for children’s content can double the chance of them becoming a proficient reader.

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“By providing a range of our best-loved titles from Cartoon Network and Boomerang, such as ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’ and ‘Be Cool,’ and ‘Scooby-Doo,’ we hope to contribute to improving children’s reading skills across the U.K. and Ireland,” Vanessa Brookman, head of kids at WarnerMedia EMEA, said in a statement.

Eye-tracking behavior research shows that 94% of children engage with subtitles while watching their favorite shows which can improve spelling, grammar and vocabulary, with the child often unaware they are learning.

The Sky Kids subtitled collection has been curated with some of the most popular children’s content, including “SpongeBob SquarePants” (Nicktoons), “PAW Patrol” (Nick Jr.), and Sky Kids Originals such as “Pirates Love Underpants” and “Moominvalley.”

“Some ideas are so powerful that something must be done about them,” Oli Barrett MBE, co-founder of Turn on the Subtitles, said in a statement. “Subtitles improving literacy is one of those ideas. This campaign takes an incredibly simple insight and uses it to improve people’s lives.”

Comcast’s Sky Inks Movie Distribution Deal With StudioCanal

Sky, the Comcast-owned European satellite TV distributor, and StudioCanal, the world’s No. 3 movie library, Jan. 18 announced a partnership to afford Sky’s 24 million subscribers access to hundreds of hours of movies on Sky Q and separately on Now TV.

Under the deal, StudioCanal’s titles scheduled for release this month will be brought to Sky Cinema and Now TV after their theatrical release. Customers will get access to upcoming titles, including 2021 Awards hopeful Supernova, JoJo Moyes adaptation The Last Letter From Your Lover, female action thriller Gunpowder Milkshake, and Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy starring in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.

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In addition to the theatrical slate, from the start of 2021 movies from StudioCanal’s existing library will be brought onto Sky Cinema and Now TV. Titles include Paddington and Paddington 2, A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, as well as action titles Legend and Logan Lucky and award-winning movies The Imitation Game and The Hurt Locker.

“At Sky, we’re committed to bringing customers everything they love, in one place, and our partnership with StudioCanal is another step toward doing just that,” Sarah Wright, director of Sky Cinema & acquisitions, Sky U.K., said in a statement.

StudioCanan and Sky previously worked together on two Sky Originals — The Secret Garden, based on the classic children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Blithe Spirit, a reimagining of Noël Coward’s classic comedy, which premiered on Jan. 15. The deal also follows the announcement in December of a multiyear pay-TV and streaming rights deal between Sky Deutschland and StudioCanal across all Sky distribution channels in Germany and Austria.

In the latter part of 2020, Sky finalized a new multiyear European partnership with Amazon, launching Prime Video on Sky and Now TV devices, and signed a long-term partnership with Entertainment One, bolstering Sky Cinema’s offerings.

“We are delighted to be bringing our exciting upcoming line up of films and the glories of the StudioCanal catalog to the fantastic and ever evolving Sky platform,” said Alex Hamilton, CEO StudioCanal U.K. “We look forward to a great collaboration together over the coming months and beyond.”

 

Netflix No. 2 TV Group in Europe in Revenue

The Netflix star just gets brighter. New data from Ampere Analysis reveals that the SVOD behemoth became the second largest TV group in Europe by revenue in 2020. Comcast, through its acquisition of satellite TV operator Sky, is the Euro leader with 12% market share compared to Netflix’s 6.1%.

“Since launching in 2012, Netflix has grown rapidly in Europe,” analyst Tony Maroulis said in a statement.

Indeed, by 2016, Netflix had launched its services across much of Europe and surpassed $1 billion in revenue. By 2017, it had the largest customer tally of any subscription TV business in Europe. And by 2020, Netflix had overtaken German public broadcaster ARD.

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It would seem that there is no limit to Netflix’s meteoric rise as the streamer continues outsized foreign growth, and helps itself to a greater portion of the audio-visual revenue.

“While Netflix has enjoyed success across the continent, local broadcasters are facing increased pressure,” said Maroulis. “The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the TV advertising market into decline, compounding and accelerating the woes of traditional and established brands. And while Netflix’s pockets are getting deeper, local entities are struggling to compete.”

Ampere contends that over the next few years, Netflix alone is set to be better funded than many leading commercial broadcasters, and its scale means that it is able to produce quantities of high-quality content that most of its local competitors cannot match.

“This global vs. local imbalance will further accelerate the online viewing shift, which is now beginning to shift to older demographics as well as young,” Maroulis said.

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.

Amazon Prime Video, Sky Partner for Direct Access

In an ongoing trend uniting strange bedfellows, Amazon Prime Video and Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky have partnered in a multiyear deal. The pact gives Sky Q set-top and Now TV subscribers in the U.K., Italy and Germany direct access to the Prime Video app — heretofore a SVOD competitor to NowTV and pay-TV. Prime Video joins Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer and Roxio as third-party streaming services directly available to Sky subscribers — with a separate subscription.

“Sky Q customers are receiving an early Christmas present on their boxes this year in the form of Amazon Prime Video,” Stephen van Rooyen, CEO of U.K. and Europe Sky, said in a statement. “This will make it even easier for you to access everything you love, in one place.”

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The Prime Video app bows on NowTV devices, as well as Sky Ticket in Germany, on Dec. 14. The NowTV app will also be available on select Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs across Italy, Ireland, Austria and Switzerland next year. Sky Ticket will be available on Fire TV and Fire TV Edition in Germany.

“With winter settling in, and our new binge-watch obsession ‘The Wilds’ about to launch, it’s a perfect time for Sky customers to catch up on our award-winning Prime Video TV shows, movies, and live sport,” said Jay Marine, VP of Prime Video worldwide.

Sky and eOne Ink Movie Distribution Deal

Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky and Hasbro-owned Entertainment One (eOne) on Nov. 25 announced a long-term partnership that will afford Sky subscribers access to hundreds of hours of movie content. The deal covers both eOne’s existing 200-film library and new releases in development.

Starting next summer, Sky will have the pay-TV rights to eOne’s first-run feature films, including the animated kids’ title Two by Two: Overboard!, which debuted in October at the top of the U.K./Ireland box office.

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eOne’s library includes the “Twilight” and “Divergent” franchises, Young VictoriaDallas Buyers Club and Looper. A  number of new releases will also be available to Sky Cinema subs, including holiday rom-com Happiest Season, starring Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen, which bypassed a U.K. theatrical release due to the pandemic. Existing movie library titles are available now to Sky Cinema and Now TV Cinema Pass customers in the U.K. and Ireland.

“This year alone we’ve struck agreements with Disney, Discovery, Sony and DreamWorks Animation to increase the variety of content available on Sky Q,” Stephen van Rooyen, CEO of U.K. & Europe Sky, said in a statement.

Sky subs currently have access to content from Netflix, Disney+ (U.K. and Ireland), WarnerMedia (HBO), Showtime, Discovery, Fox and Sony, among others.

eOne is one of the top independent film distributors in the U.K., generating more than £1.13 billion ($1.51 billion) at the U.K. and Irish box office in the past 12 years. Top titles include Stan & OllieThe Girl on the TrainThe BFG12 Years a SlaveThe Twilight Saga, and more recently Sam Mendes’ World War I epic 1917.

“A partnership of this scale marks one of the biggest strategic deals we’ve done this year,” said Stuart Baxter, president of international distribution at eOne. “We’re confident they will be a brilliant marketing partner for our content, working with us through the entire lifecycle.”

 

Sky, Discovery Expand New Long-Term Partnership

Comcast-owned Sky and Discovery have agreed on a new long-term, multi-faceted partnership across the U.K, and Ireland, Germany and Austria. Discovery’s portfolio of real-life entertainment channels, including Discovery Channel, will continue to be showcased across the Sky platforms in the U.K., and on the Sky Deutschland platforms in Germany and Austria. The Discovery Channel will continue to be available on the Now TV platform in the U.K. and Sky Ticket in Germany.

The deal includes linear channel distribution, video-on-demand, direct-to-consumer products, and extension of the advertising relationship.

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For the first time, the multiyear deal also covers Discovery’s non-linear brands in the U.K. and Ireland. Sky will be a distribution partner for Discovery’s existing direct-to-consumer streaming services such as MotorTrend, and new products from the future pipeline of Discovery’s direct-to-consumer offerings.

“We bring together the best content from partners like Discovery, HBO and Showtime, add it to the best live sport in Europe, our award-winning Sky Originals and apps we love like Netflix, and put it all in one place on the world’s best platform, Sky Q,” Stephen van Rooyen, CEO of U.K.  and Europe for Sky, said in a statement.

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Sky Q and Eurosport will also be working together to bring the best possible experience to customers across the U.K. and Ireland for the 2021 Olympics with UHD and HD pop up feeds dedicated to specific sports and events.

As part of the expanded deal, Sky Media and Discovery renewed their advertising sales partnership in the U.K. and Ireland while creating new opportunities for advertisers in VOD and via AdSmart. Reaching more than 95% of the U.K. population, Sky Media represents all of Sky’s channels and also sells on behalf of a range of renowned broadcasters and channels including Channel 5, Viacom and Discovery.

“Sky and Discovery have been working together for more than 30 years to bring audiences the best in real-life entertainment,” added Kasia Kieli, president and MD for Discovery EMEA. “We are very pleased that our strategic relationship continues to grow, and our new multi-dimensional agreement means Sky customers can continue to enjoy our wide range of factual, sport, lifestyle and entertainment channels and programs for years to come.”

U.K. Remains Netflix’s No. 2 Subscriber Market

The United Kingdom was Netflix’s second international market launch in 2012 following Canada in 2010. Through the first quarter 2020, the U.K. now represents slightly more than 13 million Netflix subs — second-largest behind North America with 69.9 million.

New data from Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board found that Netflix’s appeal in the U.K. after eight years remains strong, with the SVOD pioneer upping its sub base 13.4% from 11.46 million in 2019. Amazon Prime Video upped it sub base 32% to nearly 7.9 million homes, while Sky’s Now TV is found in 1.6 million homes.

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In Q4 2019, the proportion of homes with at least one SVOD subscription was 50.5%, a majority of homes for the first time. That percentage now tops 53% at 15 million. The percentage of homes with at least two services reached 24%, or 6.67 million homes.

Netflix and Amazon saw similar levels of growth in the number of households that subscribe to their services,” BARB wrote in a statement. “Amazon’s increase represents a larger year-on-year percentage growth versus Netflix’s due to Amazon’s lower number of household subscribers.”

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NBCUniversal, Sky Partner on Joint Advertising Platform

NBCUniversal and sister company Sky have launched of an advertising partnership enabling the companies’ original content to be available for purchase through NBCUniversal’s upstart “One Platform.”

Leadership of the new global division will be announced in the coming weeks, and will report into NBCUniversal Chairwoman Linda Yaccarino as well as partner closely with Sky Chief Business Officer Patrick Béhar.

NBCUniversal parent Comcast acquired U.K. satellite TV operator Sky for $39 billion in 2018.

With many consumers stuck at home during mandated government quarantine measures, domestic TV viewership is expected to add 8.3 million viewers in 2020 — the first increase since 2011, according to eMarketer.

With the global coronavirus pandemic upending traditional advertising strategies, NBCUniversal’s One Platform aims to give marketers access to premium content and advanced advertising capabilities that NBCU and Sky each bring to market.

Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky’s combined $24 billion investment in original content ranges from “Saturday Night Live” to “Game of Thrones,” as well international news efforts. NBCUniversal and Sky claim to reach an audience that spans more than half a billion viewers every month in more than 160 countries.

“At a time when lots and lots of companies are slashing their ad budgets, or at least pausing them, now the supply of viewing time or ad inventory exceeds the demand from advertisers to fill it,” Ross Benes, analyst at eMarketer, told CNBC. “It’s great to get people to watch your show, but each viewer is being monetized much lower than they were months ago.”

One Platform hopes to remedy that issue.

Germany’s Bundesliga Soccer to Resume on May 16

Germany’s Bundesliga professional soccer league is set to become one of the first sports organizations in the world to resume play on May 16. All remaining nine weekend games of the season will be played in empty stadiums for televised and streaming video audiences. The league has been suspended since March 13.

The German Football Association says the matches would run under strict health protocols, including requiring players have regular COVID-19 tests.

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Comcast’s Sky Deutschland will broadcast all games live in Germany and Austria. Pay-TV operator BT Sports has Bundesliga rights in the U.K. is reportedly considering broadcasting the games for free (with ads).

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