Sky’s Top Sports Executive Quits a Year After Comcast Takeover

(Bloomberg) -- Sky is parting ways with the executive who tightened the pay-TV company’s grip on British soccer broadcasting.

Barney Francis is the latest senior manager to step down from London-based Sky since it was bought for $39 billion by U.S. media giant Comcast Corp. in November 2018.

Chief Operating Officer Andrew Griffith already went to work as a business adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and has now been elected to Parliament. Marketing chief Luke Bradley-Jones left to run Walt Disney Co.’s new European streaming service.

Francis led Sky’s sports business -- a pillar of its pay-TV offering -- for a decade. The company lost the U.K. rights to the European Champions League during his tenure and he focused instead on increasing coverage of domestic soccer including the top-tier Premier League, the world’s richest soccer tournament. The move paid off as money poured into clubs, improving the quality of matches and drawing in new fans.

He developed new digital offerings and added events including Formula 1 motor racing, the Masters golf tournament, and U.S. National Basketball Association games.

“The time is right to move on to new adventures in a changing world,” Francis wrote in a short statement.

Comcast has brought Sky more financial strength to compete for costly TV rights and cement its hold on major sporting competitions. The takeover has also raised questions over Sky’s long-term direction as new sports streaming companies begin to challenge its dominance.

Francis’s situation had been unclear since last May, when Sky Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Darroch gave him a newly-created role of chief executive of future sport, replacing him with Rob Webster as managing director of Sky Sports in the U.K.

Francis was given the task of finding growth opportunities across Comcast’s international markets.

It doesn’t appear to have worked out, and he will now leave at an unspecified date this year, according to a company memo that was seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by a Sky spokesman.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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