Sky’s Strong ‘optimistic’ on HBO deal, pushes back on German sale rumours

Dana Strong

Sky CEO Dana Strong has said she is “optimistic” of extending the HBO overall deal with Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), which provides the pay TV operator with much of its most watched programming.

The current deal – providing shows such as White Lotus and Succession to Sky – was struck in 2019 with Warner Media, which merged with Discovery in 2021. It is due to run until the end of 2025.

WBD will launch its newly rebranded streamer Max outside of the US in the coming months complete with HBO content, but there has to date been no confirmation over how or if the streamer will be rolled out into Sky territories such as the UK, Germany or Italy, with HBO content at present tied up as part of the Sky pact.

Strong, who was talking at RTS Cambridge, said Sky had become “very well known for creating environments where our parters can get more economic benefit by working with us than against us.”

“We bring audiences efficiently to content and we allow everyone to share in that, including the consumer, who gets to pay a lower price because we can aggregate services,” she said, pointing to deals that have seen services such as Netflix and Paramount+ become available on the Sky platform.

“We are quite optimistic of the logic of doing business together [with HBO] so that both parties have a better outcome – we think we will be able to find our way through that,” she said, doubling down on comments last year that a deal would be found “one way or another”.

WBD has been embracing third-party distribution for more than a year following the previous focus on a strict DTC approach and there have been signs that the David Zaslav firm is becoming increasingly flexible in terms of its approach to Max.

It extended its output deal with Foxtel in Australia in March, citing a deal that put “optionality at its core”, while it has launched new channels in Asia and extended the reach of its HBO Go streamer in the region.

German outlook

Strong also discussed the future of its business in Germany, following numerous reports suggesting the Comcast-owned pay TV operator could look to offload the division.

The Sky CEO pushed back against the reports, admitting that the German market had been “notoriously difficult” for pay TV until recently, while also talking up the potential of its streaming service, Wow.

“When we look at [Germany], there is an opportunity for the streamer there,” Strong said, pointing to the recent appointment of CEO Barny Mills – who replaced UK-bound Devesh Raj – as proof that the Comcast-owned company is committed to the country.

“Germany has a lot of potential and the new CEO announcement is all the evidence you need that we are in it,” she said.

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