Sky Deutschland CEO Sees New Era for Operator
Germany has proven to be a tough market for satellite pay-TV operator Sky Deutschland, formerly Premiere. The operator has been beset with problems throughout recent years, including widespread piracy and a scandal involving false subscriber figures which led to widespread change among executive ranks.
The man now responsible for turning Sky Deutschland around is CEO Mark Williams, who previously served as COO of Sky Italia. Williams discusses the challenges ahead.
VIA SATELLITE: Premiere was a well-known brand in Germany. Why did it make sense to change to Sky?
Williams: The launch of Sky in July marks the starting point of a new era for the German and Austrian pay-TV landscape. Sky offers TV entertainment at its best and is a completely new, fresh and innovative pay-TV service that is not reminiscent of anything which preceded it. Extensive market research demonstrated a clear need to adopt a new name to support the launch of the new service.
VIA SATELLITE: What are the challenges to making Sky Deutschland profitable?
Williams: Having successfully overcome the liquidity risk at the end of 2008 and recapitalizing the company, Sky is now in a financially secure position. This also applies to our operational platform, with piracy eliminated, winning exclusive Bundesliga rights for cable and satellite transmission until 2013, and a clear focus on monthly paying subscribers. We have managed to establish a very sound basis for growth in the German and Austrian markets. Now our focus is on our core business: enhancing program attractiveness, reaching a high level of customer satisfaction, improving usability and convenience, and pushing marketing and sales. I am convinced that we have now begun building a profitable pay-TV business.
VIA SATELLITE: How difficult is it to sell new pay-TV services in Germany?
Williams: I would describe analog television in Germany as entrenched rather than strong. The television service Sky has now brought to the market offers another level of quality … not to mention the first comprehensive HD programming line-up. It is not difficult to sell new customers on Sky because it is so compelling. We need to break through a certain level of inertia, but we do not underestimate customers’ desire for more and better programming once they are aware of it.
VIA SATELLITE: How important is HD in the offering?
Williams: We strongly believe that high-definition television is the future. This is why we put a clear emphasis on our HD portfolio. We currently have seven HD channels — the first comprehensive HD service available in Germany and Austria. We constantly strive to expand and improve our range of programs, and this will certainly include our HD bouquet. We have not set specific targets for HD subscribers, but going forward, all receivers that we deploy will be HD capable.
VIA SATELLITE: How will you grow on-demand services?
Williams: At the moment, we offer attractive pay-per-view programming on Sky Select, including a broad range of current films and sports events. We consider video on demand an attractive service with a sustainable effect on customer experience, and, in the future, are striving to expand our range of offerings in this area.
VIA SATELLITE: Where do you hope to position Sky Deutschland on the German broadcast landscape over the next 12 months?
Williams: Our goal is to position Sky as the leading pay-TV broadcaster in Germany and Austria, with a high level of brand awareness. The first thing we want people to associate Sky with is, very simply, extraordinary TV entertainment in every respect. This is what people ought to expect from us, and this is what Sky will deliver.