“I intend to stick around, and I look forward to leading Sky into the future,” Darroch said during a Comcast earnings call. “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.”
Darroch’s statement came at the end of his presentation to analysts and after Comcast CEO Brian Roberts introduced him as “Sky’s longtime successful CEO.” Later in the call, Roberts said he was “delighted” that Darroch would stay on.
“We’re really excited and pleased with the management team” at Sky, said Roberts, who contrasted the situation with Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal, after which Comcast quickly instituted a number of executive changes. “We are delighted that Jeremy and many of the team, the senior team, we hope and believe are going to stay with the company.”
Whether the highly regarded Darroch would stay on after the Comcast takeover has been an open question since the deal was done. Darroch netted a payday of about £37 million from the Sky sale to Comcast. The announcement that he would participate with Roberts on the earnings call to talk about the future of Sky was seen as a sign that he was more likely to stay than depart.
Comcast beat 21st Century Fox in September in the high-stakes battle for Sky. The U.S. cable giant won a final-round auction shootout with a $40 billion bid, considerably higher than its rival’s best offer.
Roberts said that “Sky fits perfectly with Comcast” and defended the company’s price tag. Comcast’s share value dipped in the wake of the Sky deal and Fox’s rose. Roberts said he thinks that Sky has previously been “misunderstood and maybe mis-priced.”
“Disney bid 10% less,” Roberts said. “That’s exactly the amount we bid less than they did on Fox. These are super-desirable assets when put together with a company like Comcast and the fit makes us stronger. First, as a standalone, I think [Sky] supports the values. Together I think it increases the value.”
Darroch walked analysts through the dynamics of Sky and the media business in Europe, where pay-TV is still a long way from fully penetrating many territories.
Talk of cricket rights may have been novel for U.S. media analysts, and on sports, the Sky chief underlined that the company is focused on premium rights and walking away from second-tier offerings. He added that Sky will also reduce the volume of niche movies it buys and its lineup of linear entertainment channels.
Sky has pushed into streaming via its low-cost Now TV service. Darroch noted that the company has just finished work on an OTT platform what will allow it “to light up any other country very, very quickly” following SVOD launches in Spain and Switzerland.
Roberts sounded a more cautious note on streaming, but said it is part of the international plan. “Streaming is obviously going to be part of our business but is not a substitute for what is a very good business in television,” he said. “Streaming, we think, is very challenging economically, and we don’t want to rush into anything that could in any way take what has been a tremendous television business and make it worse.”