Sky signs another ‘co-exclusive’ deal, this time with NBCUniversal

Sky TV says it has signed a new, multi-year deal with NBCUniversal.

Financial terms are undisclosed, but a now-familiar phrase features through the pay-TV broadcaster’s NZX filing: “co-exclusive” – as also seen in Discovery and ViacomCBS deals with Sky over the past few months.

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“Co-exclusive doesn’t exist in the dictionary, but in the Sky context it means sharing some rights with other broadcasters or, increasingly, with a content-creator’s own direct-to-the-consumer streaming service.

During a February conference call with analysts after Sky reported its first-half result, Sky chief executive Sophie Maloney said her company would still shoot for exclusive rights in some instances but was “comfortable with co-exclusive content” in others – which she said proved the value of partnering with Sky in the NZ market “while also providing opportunities for Sky to cut cost”. That is, non-exclusive content is cheaper content.

In the case of the NBCUniversal deal, as with other recent contracts, there are a number of exclusive elements along with the “co-exclusive fare”.

If Sky gets the balance right, then there’s enough original fare to keep customers loyal – and direct-to-consumer services like NBCUniversal’s Peacock app at bay – while also allowing the pay-TV broadcaster to bank savings.

Disney reset the landscape in late 2019 when it renegotiated deals with pay-TV broadcasters worldwide, pulling original content to make it exclusive to its new Disney+ streaming service – which has proved a runaway success during the pandemic, fuelling the bulk of growth as the Magic Kingdom’s streaming customers exploded to more than 142 million by February 2021.

A flurry of imitators have followed, with Hollywood film and television studios either creating new direct-to-consumer apps (such as Discovery+ or ViacomCBS’s Paramount+), or jazzing up past efforts (such as NBCUniversal’s Peacock or Warner’s HBO Max).

With Sky’s new NBCUniversal deal, “We get a number of first-run series which are NZ premieres,” a Sky spokeswoman said.

“Broadcast channels E! and the new Universal TV channel will be exclusive to Sky. Some content is co-exclusive which we are comfortable with; what matters to us is that our customers can access the content they want, with ease, via Sky and Neon.”

Sky says the expanded deal includes content from the Universal Studio Group, which is comprised of Universal Television, UCP, NBCU International Studios and Universal Television Alternative Studios. Movies from NBCU’s vast film portfolio, as well as linear channel brands E! and CNBC.

It includes new shows Young Rock, The Equalizer and We Are Lady Parts; Sky Studios original productions, including Gangs of London, A Discovery of Witches and Riviera; and a rich library of fan-favourite dramas and sitcoms, including Treadstone, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office.

Sky Movies and Neon customers can look forward to blockbuster films Trolls World Tour and The Croods: A New Age, in addition to hundreds of other hit movies, Sky says.From The King of Staten Island and the Bourne franchise to Pitch Perfect and classics like the Back to the Future series.

Universal TV – the linear channel from NBCU International Networks – will also launch on Sky screens as part of the deal, making its New Zealand debut on April 30. The new channel is dedicated to crime and drama procedurals.

Sky recently reported a $39.6m net profit for the first-half of its 2021 financial year, against its year-ago net profit of $11.9m as overall subscriber numbers jumped amid a streaming boom.

However, streaming customers spent a lot less per month than Sky box customers, meaning overall revenue slid 7 per cent to $357m.

The company is looking to turn around the decline in average revenue per customer per month with smarter content deals, and its soon-to-launch Sky Broadband service.

Sky shares were recently trading at $0.17.8c. The stock is up 24.3 per cent over the past 12 months.

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