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Comcast Outbids Disney for Sky, Increasing International Ambition

Comcast’s entry into the bidding to become the new owner of Sky is more evidence of the world’s leading media giants continuing to build out their portfolios across content production, distribution and platforms, on a global basis.

If Comcast succeeds with its bid – a 16% increase on Disney’s initial offering - it would bring together two of the globes best in class pay-TV platforms and provide increased competitiveness for the new entity against both traditional operators and the new era of competition led by Netflix and Amazon.

The inclusion of Sky would provide Comcast with a significant proportion of Europe’s premium pay-TV subscriber base. Its TV operations in UK/Ireland, Germany/Austria and Italy, with a collective subscriber base of 19 million, command some of Europe’s highest pay-TV ARPUs (approx. USD55 per month in the UK), driven from its continued investment in premium content strands across sports, movies and entertainment; a strategy that will be strengthened by NBC Universal’s strong and evolving content division. Also, let’s not overlook Sky’s own increasing investment in original content, which would benefit from Comcast’s international distribution capabilities.

Comcast and Sky have continued to invest and diversify their operations, meaning both aren’t solely reliant on the pay-TV cash-cow for the future growth of the company. Broadband is representing an ever-rising proportion of revenue and profit across both organisations and recent expansions into mobile (Sky in Dec-16 and Comcast in May-17) ensures the continued provision of multiplay beyond the demise of fixed telephony.

With broadband increasingly important, both operators are primed to drive up data consumption through more IP-delivered services. Sky is set to soon roll out a full IPTV service, but remains relatively water tight to the inclusion of third party services (although Spotify will soon be popping up on the Q box), whereas Comcast’s Xfinity platform offers Netflix, satisfying the 55% of its subscriber base which also take the SVoD service. Sky’s established OTT Pay-TV Light platform, Now TV, is successfully building out Sky’s international footprint, currently extending to Spain and Switzerland, and retaining otherwise lost customers in its traditional markets in the advent of increased pricing pressure from alternative video platforms.

Beyond the content, Comcast’s X1 and Sky’s Q hardware are widely considered industry leading platforms, breaking previous ceilings when it comes to consumer Pay-TV experiences. The drawing together and potential standardising of these platforms provides further opportunity to improve the cost savings outlined by Sky of £40 million per year and offers the ability to extend the success Comcast has already had with leveraging international licencing opportunities.

While such a move would result in Europe’s two largest pay-TV companies being under US ownership, there are obvious synergies that would enrich Sky’s proposition both in the UK and internationally. From Comcast’s perspective it represents a timely opportunity to build international scale with a like-minded and respected media company. 

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Carl Hibbert

About the author

Carl Hibbert

Heading the Consumer Media & Technology Research team, with over 20 years industry analyst experience. Carl maintains & develops Futuresource's services across all forms of entertainment & consumer electronics, ensuring unrivaled insight & knowledge in sector dynamics and future industry direction. A regular presenter at industry conferences across USA, Europe and Asia and frequent contributor to press and trade journals.

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