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 »
John Malone’s Liberty Global acquired the UK’s Virgin Media in a $23B deal in June. In the past year, Britain’s No. 2 pay-TV operator has added 1,000 extra customer service roles while its rival, 21st … 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 »
News Corp‘s soon-to-be-separated media and entertainment assets, to be known as 21st Century Fox, is adding its logo to Team Sky, the conglom’s BSkyB-sponsored pro cycling team — and just in time for the 100th … 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 »
The battle between BT and BSkyB continues to mount with UK regulator Ofcom opening an investigation into the News Corp.-controlled pay-TV group on the back of a complaint brought by BT. In the … 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 »
Former BBC Daytime controller Liam Keelan was originally named dirctor of BSkyB‘s flagship Sky 1 HD back in December, but he later pulled out to move to BBC Worldwide. After opening up the search again, Sky has now … Read More »
Upping the stakes in its rivalry with Virgin Media, News Corp.-controlled BSkyB will acquire the broadband and fixed-line telephone business of Telefonica UK making Sky the second-largest broadband provider in the market. The company … 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 … Read More »
UK telecommunications provider BT is negotiating to buy soccer rights from ESPN as the Disney-owned channel explores an exit from the UK, the Financial Times reports. BT aims to launch as many as three sports channels offering soccer, rugby … Read More »
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 »
‘The Following’ Gets Killer Ratings On Sky Atlantic
Kevin Bacon serial killer drama The Following had a solid debut on Fox in the U.S. on Monday and on Tuesday premiered on UK pay channel Sky Atlantic. In the 10PM-11PM slot, the violent horror thriller drew an average of 270,000 viewers for a 1.4% share. The numbers may not sound earth-shattering but they were more than 636% higher than the slot average over the past three months, The Guardian reported. Meanwhile, the premiere of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes’ reality show about English manses, Great Houses With Julian Fellowes, drew 2.2M viewers on ITV at 9PM for an 8.8% share on Tuesday.
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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 »
In a blow to comers Netflix and Lovefilm, the UK’s Sky has entered a new multi-year deal with NBCUniversal International Television Distribution that will give it exclusive rights to current, upcoming and library film titles for its Sky Movies service. The pact will give customers an exclusive first window to Universal films after their theatrical runs for at least a year. Titles covered include The Bourne Legacy, Snow White And The Huntsman, Ted and, down the road, Les Miserables, Anna Karenina and Despicable Me 2. All movies will also be available on Sky’s recently-launched video on demand service Now TV.
The deal comes on the heels of September’s exclusive arrangement with Warner Bros. for recent and upcoming titles. That extended agreement was Sky’s first with a Hollywood major since Netflix appeared on the scene at the beginning of 2012. It was also the first pact announced with a major after the UK’s Competition Commission confirmed this summer that the News Corp-controlled Sky does not have a material advantage over its rivals in the first window pay-TV arena. These latest agreements mean that Sky retains exclusive first window rights to films from all of the Hollywood majors. 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 … Read More »
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 »