Sky and HBO: Bond of Brothers


Sky has tied up HBO content in this market with a new multi-year deal that puts streaming upstarts on notice and will include developing an HBO Download to Go app.

The pact cements Sky’s entrenched partnership with HBO, which  began with the launch of the SoHo channel in 2011, and nixes prospects of HBO going it alone here.

Under the new terms, Sky will be the exclusive holder of TV rights for all HBO content in the NZ market, including first-run and library titles across all platforms.

The deal comes amid unprecedented competition for premium TV drama in the peak TV era, where streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Lightbox have started to chip away at Sky’s supremacy in this domain.

HBO content is a key part of Sky’s premium drama offering, “which sees some of the world’s most anticipated television programmes screening exclusively on its various linear and streaming platforms in New Zealand”, Sky said this afternoon in a statement.

“We have enjoyed a great relationship with HBO for many years and this deal shows the strength of the working partnership we have,” said Travis Dunbar, Sky’s Director of Entertainment.  “This sends a very strong signal to the market that HBO and Sky have a long term investment and commitment to ensure Kiwis have exclusive access to HBO content on Sky and Neon.”

Pending are new seasons of Westworld, Silicon Valley, Insecure, Veep, The Deuce and Room 104 while among this year’s premieres are Barry, Succession and the mini-series Sharp Objects. Also in the wings are new seasons of True Detective and Big Little Lies, with the final season of Game of Thrones due next year.

“We are committed to continually adding considerable breadth to our great value offering for all our customers, no matter how they choose to watch,” Dunbar said.

“With more than half of all Kiwis engaging with Sky through our linear, SkyOn Demand and Sky Go platforms, along with our SVOD service Neon (available to anyone in New Zealand), we are delighted to work closely with HBO to secure this highly sought after content for our customers.”

Dunbar said HBO and Sky are exploring “new and innovative” ways to enable Kiwis to watch HBO’s content.

“We are working closely with HBO to be able to offer ‘HBO Download to Go’, which will give our customers the option to temporarily load programmes to a tablet or phone to watch when away from their set top box.

“We look forward to sharing further information on this over the coming months.”

In the meantime, Neon has just implemented Auto Play Next Episode functionality, which Sky says has been requested by Neon users via surveys, reviews and social media. This means TV episodes will continue playing until the end of the season or when you choose to dismiss the next episode.

The HBO announcement came within hours of Sky chief executive John Fellet announcing his retirement after 27 years at the helm.

“In order for the board to commence a strategic succession process, I have indicated my desire to retire within the next 12 months”, Mr Fellet said.

Sky chairman Peter Macourt said a global search process would be undertaken, including New Zealand-based and internal candidates.

“John will be part of that search process, and has agreed to remain as CEO until his successor is found. John will continue to serve on the Sky board after the transition is made.”

Mr Macourt expressed the board’s gratitude for Mr Fellet’s contribution to Sky, saying “John has been the driving force behind Sky’s success for many years. He has made an enormous contribution to our business, and to the television industry in New Zealand.

“We are grateful for his work and commitment to Sky, and for the succession process he has instigated, which will allow a careful search for the right individual to take the reins at Sky.”

Reflecting on his 27 years at the company, Mr Fellet said, “When I started we had 125 employees and three channels. I am immensely proud of the work of our team, which now numbers over 1100 staff, in growing Sky to the company it is today.

“We have some exciting developments underway to take advantage of digital opportunities and to continue to deliver great content to New Zealanders. I look forward to working with the team as we put them in place, and to finding the best person to lead Sky in the future.”

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