Comcast Makes Bid for Europe’s Screens with ‘Sky Glass’ TV
Comcast Corp.’s European pay-TV unit Sky unveiled a new video service integrated with a smart television as it tries to become the gatekeeper to a crowd of competing streaming platforms.
Sky Glass will be available starting at 13 pounds ($17.70) a month in the U.K. from Oct. 18, with more markets following next year, Chief Executive Officer Dana Strong said at a launch event in east London on Thursday, likening the concept and monthly payment plans to smartphones.
The push into home hardware beyond its Sky Q set-top box is Philadelphia-based Comcast’s biggest move since acquiring Sky for $39 billion in 2018, and shows the global battle for streaming viewers is about more than producing hit shows.
Sky is stepping up investment in studio space and original series like “Chernobyl” to compete with the deep-pocketed and growing crowd of rival streaming platforms like Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Now it’s trying to extend its reach and become a kind of platform of platforms, taking control of promoting content on-screen against other streamers, as well as bundling a premium TV service with its broadband and mobile plans.
The sets will be manufactured in factories owned by China-based TPV Technology Co Ltd, but the design comes from Sky, a spokesman for the company said by email. London-based Sky makes a “small margin” on each Glass set sold, but the bigger benefits will come from customer loyalty, Strong told reporters.
The move is fraught with risk. Recent history is littered with failed efforts to challenge specialist consumer electronics makers at their own game.
And Sky isn’t the first to bundle its own service into a piece of hardware alongside those of its rivals -- take Apple Inc.’s TV box and Amazon.com Inc.’s Fire dongle. But bringing out a TV set takes the idea a step further.
Sky Glass is the first big strategic decision for Strong since she took over in January, succeeding Jeremy Darroch who steered Sky for more than a decade. She was previously president of consumer services at Comcast and before that worked at rival Liberty Global Plc.
The move could set Sky on a path to reduced reliance on distribution by satellite companies such as Eutelsat SA and SES SA. The company is also in talks to invest in the terrestrial fiber network of Liberty’s U.K. joint venture Virgin Media O2, according to media reports. Sky currently re-sells broadband over copper and fiber owned by rival BT Group Plc.
“Comcast has been in the television business for about 60 years,” said Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts at the launch. “There have been a few big moments with the potential to be transformative. And you know what? This could well be one of them.”
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