Interview: John Fellet at Sky Upfronts

IMG_1032The following is an interview that was conducted with Sky Television CEO John Fellet at yesterday’s upfronts by Eric Young.

EY: For more than quarter of a century Sky has been a part of our television landscape. It’s in half of New Zealand homes and survived, and thrived, through some of the most challenging times in our broadcasting history. Why has it thrived? It has shown it can adapt and maybe, John, that’s where we should start. We’ve had a lot to adapt to in the past couple of years.

JF: You’re absolutely right. You know, ever since the… technology just kinda washes over media every couple of years and certain companies adapt and survive and others that don’t, disappear. I remember when the satellites became cheaper and all of a sudden we could move from UHF up to satellite, and then hard drives became cheaper and cheaper so we could actually put one inside a decoder, making the MySky. Compression technology has been getting better so we could progress from SD to HD. And now, I think this internet, well, I mean, it scares every body and offers lots of challenges. I think it offers more opportunities than ever before.

EY: As technology evolves, viewing options expand, obviously. How are we coping?

JF: Again, you can’t hide from technology. It’ll run you over and spit you out too so what we’ve attempted to do is adapt to the internet, starting off with SkyGo a few years ago, and then FanPass has been real successful for us, and Neon and SkyGo. Those figures are incredible about BSkyB, how many millions of people, how much content is downloaded every week. We’ve just started rolling out that technology so I would hope in a few years we would be the leading distributor over the internet in New Zealand.

EY: Over the past couple of years so many more players have entered what was already a pretty crowded market. How do we meet those challenges?

JF: Nothing really changes. Our strategy has always been to try and get the best local content when you can, and in our case we’ve tried to do that with sports and so I’m really pleased we’ve locked up netball, cricket, and rugby and on top of that we’ve had the combination of international brands to help, and so SoHo is the leading premium drama source, and we’ve got them locked up, on top of that, if there’s a studio you’d hate to have go to a competitor, it would be Disney. On top of the normal great movies and great channels, they also own the next 3 Star Wars movies which we’ll have exclusive rights to. And then there’s all the Marvel comic book stable of movies which is producing one hit after another. On top of that, Viacom, Discovery, Turner, Fox International, these are all our partners.

EY: Let’s talk about which is a little bit close to my heart, Prime. How does Prime fit into Sky’s overall strategy?

JF: Prime is having the best year ever, to the point now where we can make a commitment to take it to High Definition which should happen in the first quarter of next year. There was a period of time when free-to-air, the rights for content were terribly high and made it incapable for anyone to make any money in the free-to-air industry. The prices are starting to rationalise so you’re going to see more and more content on Prime so I’m really excited about its prospects.

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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