June 23, 2024

Sky boss Dana Strong has said she is “optimistic” that Warner Discovery will renew its content deal with the European cable service when it expires in three years.

Citing the two companies’ long history, Sky’s reputation for bringing “fandom and audiences” to content and the changing attitudes to direct-to-consumer services, Strong said she thought “the logic of doing business together” would hold out.

Sky distribute a number of HBO shows such as “White Lotus” and “Succession” throughout Europe and also have co-production deals with Warner Discovery on shows including “House of the Dragon.”

“We have a very long history of partnership with Warner and we think we have represented that content extremely well and will bring brands and fandom and audiences for that content very well,” she said during a panel at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge, U.K. “We’re really well known for creating environments where our partners can get more economic benefit by working with us than working against us.”

“We bring audiences efficiently to content and we allow everybody to share in the economic benefits of that including the consumer who gets to pay a better price because we’re able to aggregate services,” she continued, citing partnerships with Netflix, Paramount Plus, Warner and Universal that have turned Sky into a one-stop shop for consumers.

“So we’re quite optimistic that the logic, I guess you would say, of doing business together so that both parties have a better outcome in the market — we’ll be able to find our way through that,” Strong added. “And actually I think Warner and David Zaslav have gone on record complimenting Sky on its extraordinary success on distribution in our markets. So although we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us before we really confront that what I would say is the narrative or the public discourse around direct to consumer only changed a lot when Discovery came into the Warner family. And you can see their global model really varies by market.”

Strong has no doubt been given hope by Warner Discovery’s rocky roll-out of their streaming service Max (previously HBO Max) in both the U.S. and internationally. While the Sky deal initially prevented Warner from launching the service in main European territories including the U.K. — putting Warner Discovery seriously behind their competitors including Disney (who launched Disney+ in 2020 in the U.K.) and Paramount (who launched Paramount Plus in 2022 in the U.K.), in retrospect that delay may prove beneficial, with media companies — and Wall Street — increasingly losing faith in the streaming model.

When asked whether the “Netflix correction” had also changed the media landscape, Strong replied it had. “There was even more of a shift with that.”

“But if you look at how [Warner Discovery] collaborate with distributors in the United States there is a symbiotic relationship there,” she added.

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