Pay-TV group Sky keeps faith in Germany and in soccer

By Paul Sandle

CAMBRIDGE, England (Reuters) – European pay-TV company Sky is keeping faith with the German market and its historical mainstay Premier League soccer, Chief Executive Dana Strong said on Wednesday, signaling no major change in strategy from its U.S. owner Comcast.

Media reports have said Sky’s German business could be on the block. Reuters reported in May the company could pay hundreds of million of euros to sell the operation to Prosiebensat.1.

Strong, however, told the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention on Wednesday the German pay-TV market had been “notoriously difficult”, but there had never been a better time for the sector than today.

There was “really important potential” for Sky’s streaming services in the country, she said, and a new CEO had just been appointed. “I think Germany’s got a lot of potential,” she said.

Strong said sport, including English Premier League soccer, remained central to Sky’s offer.

“Sport is an incredibly important part of not just our heritage but also our future,” she said, noting that the Premier League was one of many sports in its portfolio.

Strong said Sky’s “incredible” relationship with the Premier League had generated global interest in the English game.

“We love the role that it plays in our business and we hope that partnership continues for many years to come,” she said.

The current Premier League broadcast rights for three seasons up to and including 2024/2025 are worth nearly 5 billion pounds ($6.2 billion), with packages split between Sky Sports, TNT Sports, previously known as BT Sport, and Amazon.

The next set, which could include a new 18.30 kick-off slot on Sundays according to reports, are coming up for auction in the coming months.

Strong said it would be “perilous” to predict the outcome or any of the bidders’ strategies, but she said Sky’s long-term carriage deal with TNT Sports put it in a good position in terms of showing matches on its platform.

($1 = 0.8074 pounds)

(Reporting by Paul Sandle, Editing by Sarah Young and Hugh Lawson)