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Sky to be more selective with sports rights strategy

Pan-European pay-television broadcast group Sky is becoming more selective about what sports rights it seeks as it focuses more on entertainment content amid shifting viewing habits, according to chief executive Jeremy Darroch.

Speaking at a Morgan Stanley investor conference in Barcelona, Darroch said Sky will prioritise the most important rights and let others go, as it reduces its dependence on sports.

“Sport is very important, obviously football is very important, but relatively, every day it is less important than it was and that allows us to make more choices about how much we spend, where we invest and where we choose not to,” Darroch said, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

Sky now incorporates operations in the UK and Ireland, Germany and Austria, and Italy. In the UK, Sky is currently living with a fall in ratings for English Premier League football games. Darroch attributed some of this to competition early on from other major sporting events such as the 2016 summer Olympic Games, but maintained wider issues are at hand.

He said Sky is monitoring the trend whereby younger viewers in particular are now less committed to watching entire games and are instead following the action via their smartphones and other devices.

He added: “It’s a slightly more complex picture. We’re seeing similar things going on with the NFL (American football league). A lot of sports governing bodies will keep an eye on this as well.”

Meanwhile, Darroch said that Sky Italia would act “opportunistically” in the forthcoming sale of Serie A and Uefa Champions League rights in Italy. Darroch’s comments come after Italian broadcaster Mediaset last week said it still expects its contentious pay-television deal with French media company Vivendi to be completed, maintaining the ongoing impasse will not hamper its efforts in the bidding process for the two key football properties.

Asked whether the Italian group’s pay-television division, Mediaset Premium, would be able to bid in rights tenders for Serie A and the Champions League, both due to be held in the first half of next year, Mediaset’s chief financial officer Marco Giordani said Vivendi would “take care of the auctions”.