Commentary

Unifying Sky - Is It All About Building A Single European Programmatic TV Platform?

The Murdoch family would appear to be on a mission, and it's got nothing to do with Fox and studio mergers. The real news, I'd suggest, is the very publicly played-out move to unify Sky across Europe.

Although it depends which paper you read how well progress is reported, the move would appear to be on track. The main reason usually given is to create a pay TV giant that spans Europe, allowing it to buy and exploit entertainment rights across the whole region. As soon as you mention Sky, minds immediately turn to sports -- and so most reports will mention pan-European satellite broadcasters bidding for rights as a single business.

There's probably a lot of truth in this, but at the same time, the EU is only going one way on sports rights. Broadcasters are now legally prevented from dominating a sport -- preventing Sky from, in particular, having exclusive access to Premier League football rights. Even with a second broadcaster -- BT -- sharing a slice of games, rival broadcasters have still succeeded in getting a review of the bidding process so games may be divided and shared more widely in the future.

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So is it all about sport rights? I don't think so. It's obviously a consideration. A conversation with a senior marketer from a well-known carmaker has made me think that maybe the impetus behind the move is more to do with advertising, and potentially further down the line, programmatic TV.

Commentators often sum up television spots being made available on live and catch up services as appealing to brands that can't afford conventional broadcast spots. The obvious point here, of course, is that the kinds of brands which have television advertisements to fill spots with will typically be the same big brands that advertise on television anyway.

So it's interesting to ask a huge brand what its take on programmatic TV spots is, because the lack of reach is a big issue. A global brand will find it useful to bid for slots programmatically on a catch-up service but they currently have no way of repeating the process across multiple markets. 

Here's a suggestion, then. Could it just be that Sky is actually there to provide a massive advertising network for broadcast advertising, and crucially, a little further down the line, for programmatic slots? Language barriers could be an issue, and so countries would still need to be divided so different versions of an ad could be shown with the right language and prices. However, serving the right creative to the right market is not a huge hurdle, and certainly a very small price to pay for having one platform to reach the European markets that the big brands want to reach.

Sounds ideal, doesn't it? While the brands that don't want to reach beyond a postcode area will be able to use Sky's AdSmart technology, the global giants that want to saturate Europe will be able to use a unified Sky platform to provide reach without having to make dozens of separate arrangements.

Sports and entertainment rights are certainly a consideration, but I'd also suggest this single platform for conventional -- and then, programmatic -- TV advertising is right up there too as a motivator for unifying Sky.

2 comments about "Unifying Sky - Is It All About Building A Single European Programmatic TV Platform?".
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  1. Alistair Kelman from Cachebox TV Ltd, December 11, 2014 at 2:14 p.m.

    If you want to know what SKY really wants to do then take a look at one of SKY's pending patent applications for AdSmart and you will see the range and scope of its potential activities.
    The main one is the SKY patent application "An Audiovisual Media Substitution System" GB2473306-A as filed at the UK IPO. The applications outlines how the AdSmart system is intended to work
    http://www.ipo.gov.uk/p-ipsum/Document/ApplicationNumber/GB1308852.1/7e072312-41d1-41ff-9019-c4a8d2a91144/GB2498499-20141118-Opinion%20request%20attachment.pdf

    A careful reading of the SKY patent applications shows that SKY is intent on deploying the AdSmart service not only in live broadcasting but also in catch-up and timeshifted broadcasting which SKY, in their patent applications, refer to as Video on Demand.

  2. Sean Hargrave from Sean Hargrave, December 12, 2014 at 5:25 a.m.

    Thanks Alistair, very helpful.

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