Sky affirms commitment to investing in content
| 03 May 2014
BSkyB managing director of content Sophie Turner Laing has re-affirmed the company’s commitment to content.

Speaking at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer (VLV) conference, Turner Laing's speech, ‘Pay television’s contribution to quality and diversity’, came just after Sky returned a mixed set of financial results, which showed that the pay-TV giant had revived flat TV subs while profits had been pegged back year on year.

One key reasons for the trimmed take was a substantial rise in content acquisition, something facing all players in the industry. Undeterred, Turner Laing, assured the audience and the broadcast industry that Sky was “as hungry as ever” to keep investing in content and to build on what the executive regarded as the reputation Sky had established in producing its own shows.

Moreover, she revealed that Sky’s current strategy of focusing on those areas that it did when it began 25 years ago — sports, films and rolling news — would not be sufficient to guarantee success in the modern broadcast environment. “We think of these as our traditional strengths and are as committed today to these areas as we’ve ever been,” she remarked. “But we realised a few years ago that just doing what we’ve always done wasn’t going to be enough.

Turner Laing revealed that Sky asked itself how it could do in entertainment what it had done in sport, movies and news, that would give its existing customers more value and reach out in new ways to those homes that had previously thought that Sky wasn’t for them. She also stressed that Sky was ready to back arts and entertainment programming, no matter how challenging the content.

“We heard from our customers that they had an appetite for more great British content – and, just as importantly, an appetite for something a bit different. We saw this as a great opportunity – a chance for Sky to look fundamental to other areas of our business. It means doing things differently and surprising people…It means using our expertise in technology to take great story-telling to a new level…And it means being ready to invest in areas that are challenging and risky. We can do this because as a pay-TV provider we’re able to indulge the passions of our customers.

For example, if an ad-funded broadcaster were to broadcast a series on the arts that attracted an audience of 50,000 people, it may not generate sufficient advertising revenue to work for them commercially. However, if 50,000 people were to choose to take Sky because they love Sky Arts, with each paying a monthly subscription all year round, then that’s brilliant.”

The speech also heard the executive disclose that the channel sees a continuing opportunity in high-quality, ambitious, cinematic drama. “We know that this is an area of strength for the terrestrial channels, but we think we can offer something distinctive. And we believe customers will welcome even more choice,” she added. “We’re investing a record amount in our entertainment content this year and we have big plans to do even more in the future.”