Sky CEO: Companies That Don’t Embrace Diversity “Are Just Going to Fall Away”

Sky CEO: Companies That Don’t Embrace Diversity “Are Just Going to Fall Away”

BY GEORG SZALAI | HollywoodReporter.Com

Troy Warren for CNT #Business

At the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention, Dana Strong also addressed the Comcast company’s European expansion plans, content business ambitions and deal mentality.

Comcast’s European TV giant Sky is looking to expand across continental Europe in the coming years, boost its content creation business and increase diversity, CEO Dana Strong said on Wednesday.

“There is no doubt that we can all do better” on diversity, she said. “We have got to keep making progress. I feel really passionately about it actually. Creating an environment and a culture where multiple, different voices, multiple, different contexts, multiple, different, diverse backgrounds can be heard is one of my main jobs as a leader.”

Appearing at the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention in her first public interview since taking over her role, she said that at Sky “we are really challenging ourselves to be better and be faster.” That is why the company has set a target of making sure that 20 percent of its U.K. and Ireland staff is from Black and ethnic minorities by 2025.

Concluded Strong: “Companies that don’t adapt and embrace diversity are not going to succeed. They are just going to fall away.” While they will “struggle,” firms that manage to really change “will flourish.”

Asked about the lack of female CEOs, she said that was “disappointing,” but highlighted that the British entertainment industry has quite a few female leaders. “We are making progress, but there is so much more progress we have to make,” she said.

What will Sky look like in five years? “I expect to be across all of continental Europe with the Sky brand,” also thanks to a recent joint venture with ViacomCBS, and that “we will have really established ourselves as a powerhouse of content creation,” she said.

Queried about her favorite programming right now, the Sky CEO mentioned the likes of Sky News, music documentaries, BBC drama Vigil, Canal+ and Amazon’s ZeroZeroZero, adding that “Ted Lasso just makes me happy.” She added that Killing Eve “would have been a great one for our platform.”

Asked about a possible privatization of Britain’s Channel 4 that the U.K. government has been suggestion and Sky’s potential interest in a deal, Strong quipped that she was out of time. “It’s really a matter for government,” she then said. “It’s premature really to speculate on it until we get more information.” But she lauded the team at Channel 4 and called it a “great partner.”

Addressing Comcast’s M&A past, Strong said chairman and CEO Brian Roberts “has had a good and interesting track record, but he is very, very selective.” She added: “He is quite surgical and quite refined in his taste, so yes, acquisitions have been important to accelerate the growth, but it’s not a scatter shot.”

Strong succeeded Jeremy Darroch as Sky group CEO early this year after he decided to step down and serve as executive chairman of the business through 2021. Strong previously served as president, consumer services for Comcast Cable and reports to Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. With more than 25 years of international experience in telecommunications and media, she was previously president and COO of Virgin Media in the U.K., chief transformation officer at John Malone’s Liberty Global, and COO of Austar in Australia.

Comcast acquired Sky in late 2018 after outbidding the Walt Disney Co. It has focused on further growing Sky’s customer base and boosting its original content budget.

Sky and ViacomCBS’ ViacomCBS Networks International recently struck a deal to launch Paramount+ on Sky platforms in the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria in 2022 “as part of a new multi-year distribution agreement that also includes the extended carriage of ViacomCBS’ leading portfolio of pay TV channels and the renewal of Sky as an ad sales partner in select markets.”

They later also unveiled a partnership to launch a new subscription video-on-demand service, dubbed SkyShowtime, in more than 20 European territories encompassing 90 million homes.

Asked if Sky sees other industry players as friends or foes, Strong said on Wednesday that “Sky has a long track record of forming partnerships” and that “collaboration is essential.” For example, Sky has reacted to the growth of streaming services and emerging content sources  “by really leaning into aggregation” and “celebrating” great content from third parties, which means higher satisfaction and loyalty from its subscribers.

The theme of this year’s Cambridge Convention is “Broadcast Britain: Reshaping Britishness on the Global Stage.” Questioned about the rise of global streamers and other challengers, Strong said the U.K. is “a very healthy market, which is why we at Comcast really see this as an imperative market to invest in creative content.”

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By Troy Warren

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