BSkyB Opens Its Sky Store Rentals To All Broadband Users
BSkyB set a challenge today to streaming providers in the UK such as Netflix and LoveFilm by announcing it has opened its Sky Store movie rental service to anyone with a broadband connection. The service does not require a Sky subscription, meaning all users in the UK and the Republic of Ireland will have access. Sky, which is controlled by 21st Century Fox, says new films including Man Of Steel and Despicable Me 2 are available from today with other fresh titles available at the same time as they drop on DVD. Those will rent for £3.49 ($5.70) each. Library titles will go for 99p-£1.99. There are already about 1,200 movies online which can be streamed through SkyStore.com, or via NOW TV, Roku and YouView. Sky’s had success with renting movies to its existing customers with 2.1 million rentals in the third quarter.
Report: Netflix Mulls Expansion Into France
Netflix has been a long time coming to France, Europe’s third-largest market, but is the tide about to turn? According to Reuters, executives from Netflix met with the staff of French President François Hollande this week to discuss the move. Netflix is available in 41 countries including France’s neighbors to the north such as the UK, the Netherlands and the Nordic region. A French launch has been rumored over the years, but moving into the fiercely protected territory is ornery for the streaming service given a complex film-windows chronology. There is no such protection for TV series, but many U.S. shows air as much as a year later than they do in the U.S. on traditional networks like TF1. TF1 has a VOD service that offers first-run U.S. series on a one-day delay and pay-TV leader Canal Plus airs first-run series within a few days; it even launched a new channel this year on which to showcase them. But movies are hampered by rules that prohibit films from appearing on monthly SVOD services until three years after a theatrical release. Rentals via a set-top box are permissible four months after theatrical. The windows issue has long been a thorny one in France, with industry opinions divided, but discussions are ongoing. A Hollande rep told Reuters, “Netflix wanted information about the legal conditions that would affect its potential arrival in France.” Read More »
Shares in 21st Century Fox-controlled BSkyB were up today in London after falling as much as 10% on Monday. That drop came after the UK’s BT Sport scored a big goal by winning the exclusive broadcast rights to 350 UEFA Champions League and Europa League soccer matches per year from the 2015/2016 season. The £897M ($1.4B) deal that was announced Saturday marks the first time a single UK broadcaster has won the exclusive live rights to all matches from both tournaments (BSkyB and ITV currently share them). It was seen as a big kick in the shins to Britain’s leading pay-TV group, but could end up as a boon for British producers. Sky’s recent growth is through its entertainment channels, while premium sports and movies are relatively stable. So, increasing the pot on acquisitions and original commissions looks like “a sensible place to keep investing,” I’m told. Read More »
When News Corp announced plans to divide into two distinct entities, questions remained about chief Rupert Murdoch‘s aspirations for full ownership of Britain’s BSkyB. Talking to watchers this week, an issue that arises is what effect comments Murdoch made to Sun staffers about News Corp’s handling of bribery and hacking charges could have on his interest in the pay-TV giant. One analyst tells me they don’t think that any business in which Rupert or son James Murdoch has a substantial role “will ever be allowed to buy a single more share” of the company. This person allows, however, that it’s hardly clear from the secretly-recorded tapes whether there was conspiracy to encourage misconduct in a public office, “I’d think the evidence is marginal.” Still, if any serious evidence does emerge from a Parliamentary hearing or a police investigation, most are agreed that UK regulator Ofcom could take another look at Murdoch’s relationship to BSkyB.
The phone-hacking scandal led News Corp in 2011 to withdraw a bid to acquire the 61% of BSkyB that it didn’t already hold. This was considered a blow to Murdoch who had long coveted full ownership. Analysts have held that News Corp would make another run at BSkyB in a few years’ time with the entertainment division, 21st Century Fox, putting forth a bid after the dust had settled around the publishing arm. But the dust may be kicking up again.
The secret recordings of Murdoch talking to Sun journalists, exposed last week by Exaro News, reveal him saying that the practice of making payments to police officers for news tips had “been going on a hundred years” and was the “culture of Fleet Street.” Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday invited Murdoch to appear and discuss the comments and he has accepted the invitation. The Committee itself has no real teeth (and has to be careful not to prejudice any ongoing criminal cases), but it can influence Ofcom. Read More »
IMAX president Richard Gelfond told the Israeli Presidential Conference today that the experience of going to the movies will always appeal despite the proliferation of mobile devices. “People are social animals and I don’t think they want to be chained to their couches, mobile devices and tablets. They want to go out,” Gelfond said, according to Reuters. “They recognize the fact that Steven Spielberg and James Cameron may be better at telling a story than a 16-year-old over the Internet. I think they can exist side by side.” Also on Thursday, IMAX and Germany’s largest exhibitor CineStar Cinemas said they would partner to put an IMAX theater at the CineStar Sony Centre in Berlin. The giant Potzdamer Platz multiplex hosts big film premiers and is familiar to Berlin Film Festival regulars. The new theater will eventually transition to IMAX’s next-generation laser digital projection system which boasts greater brightness and clarity, a wider color gamut and deeper blacks. IMAX EMEA president Andrew Cripps noted that Germany is an under-penetrated market for the company where it is looking to expand. Read More »
BSkyB revenues were up 6% to £5.38B ($8.37B) with operating profit beating forecasts by jumping 9% to £994M ($1.55B). The News Corp.-controlled company announced its third-quarter results this morning with CEO Jeremy Darroch noting that it would add 550 jobs to meet demand and serve a growing customer base. He added that the number of Internet- connected Sky+HD boxes grew by almost 45,000 each week during the quarter, leading to a five-fold increase in On Demand downloads and a 37% growth in movie rentals against last year. Britain’s largest pay-TV operator said it had over 30M paid-for subscription products across TV, broadband and telephony the first time in its history. Its customer base is now at 10.7M in the UK and Ireland. The churn rate was up, however, to 10.8% versus 10.1% in the comparable quarter last year. BSkyB competes most notably with BT and Virgin Media in the UK and is likely to see that competition heat up with John Malone’s Liberty Global recently getting the go-ahead from European authorities to acquire Virgin in a $23.3B takeover. Read More »
The deal gives BSkyB exclusive rights to Disney‘s new and classic titles and includes the creation of pay-TV channel Sky Movies Disney, which beings airing March 28, Bloomberg reports. Under the agreement, BSkyB will have first-run rights to the newest Disney films including Brave, Tinker Bell: Secret Of The Wings and Wreck-It Ralph. Older Disney films, including Finding Nemo, Cars and A Bug’s Life, also will be available on the channels. The deal also gives BSkyB first-run rights to show movies from Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios, such as Iron Man 3 and The Avengers across other Sky channels. BSkyB is about 40 percent owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
Sky and Sony Pictures Television have signed a new multi-year agreement giving the News Corp-controlled group first window rights to the studio’s new and classic movies in the UK and Ireland. BSkyB made the announcement this morning as it reported better-than-expected fiscal first half results. Operating profit for the six months ended December 31 was up 8% to £647M ($1.02B) versus £601M ($951M) in the last comparable period. The leading satcaster noted this morning that, “In a tough economic environment, more customers are taking more products and spending more money with Sky.” In the three months to December 31, the company added 615,000 products and 88,000 new subscribers for a total base of 10.7M. The period saw particular growth of weekly On Demand downloads, up 150%, and users of the recently-launched Sky Go service also increased by 46% to 3.1M. Chairman Jeremy Darroch commented, “Although we expect the consumer environment in 2013 to remain challenging, we have a strong set of plans for the year ahead. Read More »
Makers Of ‘Rake’, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ Feted
Australia’s Essential Media and Entertainment, producers of TV legal drama The Rake and Saving Mr. Banks, the film about Australian author P.L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, has been named Independent Producer of the Year. The award was made by the Screen Producers Association of Australia. Essential and Sony Pictures TV are planning a U.S. pilot remake of Rake for Fox Broadcasting starring Greg Kinnear. Headed by Chris Hilton, Ian Collie, Sonja Armstrong and Carmel Travers, Essential Media’s slate also includes the Jack Irish crime drama telemovies starring Guy Pearce for Australia’s ABC, My Brother, the Serial Killer for Discovery Channel, and Raising The Curtain, a celebration of Australia’s history of live theater. - Don Groves Read More »
UPDATE, 5:15 AM: James Murdoch has been re-elected as a non-executive director of BSkyB. Murdoch won more support at today’s shareholder meeting in London than he had at the last one when he was still chairman of the pay-TV group. Although some investors opposed his retaining a seat, only 4.98% of proxy voters wanted him out this year compared to 19% last year. One shareholder, alluding to the troubles at News Corp.’s UK newspapers, asked if the name Murdoch is now “toxic,” but chairman Nicholas Ferguson replied there had been no negative impact on company business.
PREVIOUS, 3:19 AM: BSkyB earnings were up 16% in the fiscal first quarter on revenue of £1.715B (+4%) and operating profit of £310M (+5%). The increases came as the pay-TV giant offered new products and added 20,000 net customers to its subscriber base, for a total of about 10.7M subscribers. In response to competition in the UK streaming arena from Netflix and Amazon’s Lovefilm, BSkyB added Now TV during this quarter, a service that allows non-Sky customers to access movies on demand. It also agreed to pay £760M per season for rights to the English Premier League soccer games through 2014 (NBC just acquired rights in the States for a reported $83M per year). Read More »
Britain’s leading pay-TV group, BSkyB, reported increased revenues this summer for the year ended June 30 and a record jump in operating profit to £1.22B ($1.98B). Directors at the News Corp.-controlled company also saw increased payouts for the year. The BSkyB annual review, mailed to shareholders yesterday, reveals that chief exec Jeremy Darroch received about £7.3M ($11.85M) in total remuneration and share awards including a maximum bonus of £1.87M ($3M). His total package this year reps a 7% jump on salary, bonus, pension and benefits for the previous period. His base salary rose to £935K ($1.5M) from £888K. James Murdoch, who stepped down as chairman of BSkyB in April but remains a non-executive director, made £1.045M ($1.7M) annually when he was chief exec of the company for four years until Dec. 2007, according to The Guardian. He was paid a salary of £89,417 ($145,160) this year. Nicholas Ferguson, who took over as chairman when Murdoch left, got a nearly 50% bump bringing his salary to £230,657 ($374.450).
UPDATE: News Corp. “is pleased” with the UK regulator’s decision that BSkyB is fit to hold a broadcast license. But, the company took issue with Ofcom’s stance on former chairman James Murdoch, whose actions were called “ill-judged.” News Corp. said: “We disagree with with certain of the report’s statements about James Murdoch’s prior actions as an executive and Director, which are not at all substantiated by evidence.” (Full statement below)
PREVIOUS, 12:01 AM PT: Sky has passed the “fit and proper” test. British regulator Ofcom has concluded its months-long consideration of whether the satcaster is fit to hold a broacast license in light of phone hacking and other allegations surrounding News Corp.-controlled media properties in the UK. News Corp. owns 39% of Sky. The org today said: “There is no evidence that Sky was directly or indirectly involved in any of the wrongdoing either admitted or alleged to have taken place” at News Of The World or at The Sun. However, Ofcom was critical of James Murdoch, who stepped down as chairman of BSkyB in April this year. The org said today: “The evidence available to date does not provide a reasonable basis to find that James Murdoch… was complicit in a cover up” at the News International newspapers. But, while Murdoch was exec chairman of News International, Ofcom says it considers his conduct, “including his failure to initiate action on his own account on a number of occasions, to be both difficult to comprehend and ill-judged.”
Regarding his father, Ofcom says it does not consider the evidence currently available “provides a reasonable basis on which to conclude that Rupert Murdoch acted in a way that was inappropriate in relation to phone hacking, concealment or corruption by employees of [News Group Newspapers] or News International.” It also gave a pass to News Corp., saying it has no evidence to “reach any conclusion that News Corporation acted in a way that was inappropriate in relation to phone hacking, concealment, or corruption.” Read More »
Also joining in the payment to the streaming media player maker are Menlo Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners — and an “unnamed strategic investor” that the Wall Street Journal identified as Dish Network. Roku says it will use the cash for advertising, to expand overseas, and to develop more sophisticated offerings. It hopes to build on its early start in sales of devices that bring streamed video and audio services including Netflix and Pandora to the living room. This fall it will introduce the Roku Streaming Stick, which it describes as “a wireless, dongle-sized streaming device that seamlessly integrates with newer TVs and consumer electronics devices.” With the investment, News Corp Chief Digital Officer Jon Miller will join the Roku board. “Roku’s significant technology advantage, coupled with a strong market position, places them in a unique position to be an integral part of the television landscape for years to come,” he says. Rupert Murdoch’s company owns about 39% of BSkyB. Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood says that with the new relationships with News Corp and BSkyB “we are poised to further grow our leadership position and to become the TV distribution platform of the future.” Not for nothing: Dish and Fox are battling each other in court over whether the satellite company’s Hopper DVR — which can automatically skip over recorded broadcast TV ads — infringes on Fox’s copyrights.
BSkyB Reports Record Financials … Read More »
Revenues at Britain’s leading satcaster, BSkyB, were up 4.5% to £6.79B for the year ended June 30, 2012. Operating profit jumped a record 14% to £1.22B at the company which is 39% controlled by News Corp. Sky now has 10.6M subscribers in the UK, having added 312,000 in the past year. The biggest growth is in triple-play with 3.4M now turning to Sky, a 21% increase on the previous year. Sky also recently launched internet TV service NOW TV and its free-to-air catch up service, Sky Anytime, will launch in the fall on the on-demand players of rival networks. In reporting the results, chief exec Jeremy Darroch talked up the recent Tour de France win of Bradley Wiggins. “We are proud to have played our part in the wonderful achievement of Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins, who created sporting history this week by becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France… We all hope that success at the Tour de France will add fuel to Britain’s cycling boom and inspire a whole new generation to get on their bikes.” The company also announced it would expand telephone and broadband services to the Republic of Ireland later this year.
Last week, Rupert Murdoch resigned from the board of News International, the holding company of News Corp’s UK newspapers, as well as other subsidiary boards connected with News Corp in the UK and the U.S. News Corp explained the move as corporate housecleaning ahead of a restructure that will split the conglomerate into two distinct publishing and entertainment companies. Some watchers have been skeptical, suggesting this is a further step in putting distance between Murdoch and the UK print assets that have been embroiled in a phone-hacking and bribery scandal for more than a year. The taint was emphasized today when eight former employees of the now-shuttered News Of The World, including erstwhile News International chief exec Rebekah Brooks, were informed they would face criminal charges in relation to phone hacking. Other watchers see this as potentially setting the stage for a sale by News Corp of the UK papers which now include The Sunday Times and tabloid The Sun. If Murdoch no longer sits on the News International board, in other words, it makes it more plausible for a sale of that company to go through down the line. Still another view is that distancing himself from his beloved British press holdings is a means to clear the way for the acquisition of the long-coveted 61% stake in British satcaster BSkyB that News Corp does not already own.
Related: News Corp Scandal One Year Later: Where Does The Publishing Arm Go From Here? Read More »
A report commissioned by BSkyB detailing the company’s economic footprint hopes to provide “a good example of the important contribution that a successful British company can make, particularly at a time when economic growth is harder to come by.” The report also comes at the same time as UK regulator Ofcom is deciding whether it is fit to hold a broadcast license in light of the scandals at News Corp-controlled newspapers. News Corp owns 39% of BSkyB and the consideration of whether a licensee is “fit and proper” takes into account any relevant misconduct of those who manage and control it. Read More »
A major question swirling around News Corp since last week’s announcement that the company will divide itself in two has been whether another run will be made at the 61% of British satcaster BSkyB that News Corp does not already hold. UK regulator Ofcom is currently weighing whether News Corp is fit to own a broadcast license at all in light of the phone-hacking scandal at its UK print business. And, although the org isn’t commenting publicly, I understand that News Corp’s intent to divide may be taken into consideration for the “fit and proper” test. All information and evidence that’s available will continue to be assessed as the process is ongoing, I’m hearing. There is no time frame for Ofcom’s decision, but contrary to some reports, no announcement is expected before the Olympics later this month.
Although News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch told Fox News last week, “We’ve moved on in our thinking….I’m much more bullish about America,” Panmure Gordon media analyst Alex De Groote tells me he thinks another attempt to acquire BSkyB will happen “two to three years down the line.” He calls the move to split News Corp “tactically quite shrewd” as it detaches the tainted UK print assets from the entertainment division. But, he says, “Even if phone hacking had never happened, shareholders would have legitimately pushed” to separate the businesses. De Groote calls it getting away from what’s known as “the conglomerate discount”, which reflects the difference between what a conglom’s holdings are worth and the real value the market places on the whole. He adds that “Everything is about survival in the long term. In the short term, it’s sacrifice the British newspapers and everybody who gets in the way. The long term is preserving the Murdoch family and the medium term is to get BSkyB.” Read More »
British Sky Broadcasting Group and telecommunications company BT Group have won bidding to broadcast 154 English Premier League soccer matches for $4.7 billion — almost doubling the current deal, Bloomberg reports. BSkyB’s pay-TV Sky channel will show 116 matches starting in the 2013-14 season, with the phone and broadband company BT getting 38 matches. The Walt Disney Company’s ESPN lost the right to broadcast Premier League matches. BT will pay $381 million for its share of the matches. BSkyB, of which News Corp owns 39%, bid higher to retain the sports rights it relies on to keep and lure subscribers. BT is marketing more broadband conneections and will use the games to start a new sports channel. The phone company hadn’t broadcast games before.
A Labour Party motion calling for an investigation into Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s handling of News Corp’s bid for BSkyB has been quashed in Britain’s House of Commons. Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party prevailed in the vote, winning by 290 to 252. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had called for his Liberal Democrats to abstain in what now looks like an effort to make a point in the face of Cameron’s earlier independent decision not to launch a Hunt probe.
Related: BSkyB Bid Handling Divides UK Government; Rebekah Brooks Out On Bail
Overall, Clegg cut a humble figure at Leveson saying he was basically relegated to the kids’ table the first time he met Rupert Murdoch. His party faced “indifference at best, and derision at worst” from Murdoch execs, he said. Still, regarding BSkyB, he was told by a Parliamentary aide that it “would be good for the Lib Dems to be open to the bid, otherwise we would expect no favorable treatment from the Murdoch press.” Clegg said he once questioned the timing of News Corp’s bid for the 61% of BSkyB it did not already own since news of the acquisition came right after the 2010 general election. Clegg said he was “quizzical,” so, he asked Murdoch at News International’s summer party that year, “Why are you doing this now?” The answer, Clegg said, was not revealing.
Related: UK Won’t Investigate Culture Minister’s Role In News Corp’s BSkyB Bid Read More »