Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sky's the Limit? 4 of big 6 on exclusive deals

The headline of the story I got this info from centres on Disney (Sky Movies Disney: new channel to show UK TV film premieres, Jason Deans, 21.2.13), but the bigger story is that Sky, a News Corp (Murdoch's global conglomerate) subsidiary, has now got 4 of the big 6* signed up to exclusive deals.

*Yes, this may in time switch to the 'big 7' with Lionsgate joining the party, but for now lets stick to the 6!

I knew someone would have thought of this!
Thats a very big deal so far as UK exhibition goes, giving Sky a virtual stranglehold over TV rights - precisely the sort of monopoly that the ultra-free market Murdoch claims to be against (we explore such economic issues more in A2 when looking at media regulation). Given the multiple ways you can access a Sky subscription, including on iPads, its also typically clever if cut-throat business practice from Murdoch, reflecting a similar approach to football: Sky built up its subscriber base by monopolising Premership football coverage and taking it off free-to-air PSB networks (BBC, ITV, C4, C5). He's successfully seen off challenges from ITV Digital in the past (illegally leaking the hack code for its subscriber cards according to a 2012 documentary), and is now faced with potentially stiff competition from streaming services such as Netflix.
The deal also gives Sky access to Disney films for its video on demand services Sky Go, Now TV and On Demand.
Sky declined to reveal the length of its new Disney deal. But in the face of increased competition for Hollywood movie rights from US VOD service Netflix, which launched in the UK in early 2012, Sky has now renewed exclusive pay-TV deals with four out of the six major studios – Disney, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros – since September.
The deal includes Disney's newly-acquired subsidiary Lucasfilms, which means Sky have exclusive pay-TV rights to the upcoming Star Wars sequels.

Its also an illustration of how the majors retain and reinforce their dominance; the likes of Warp aren't likely to be invited to negotiations for an exclusive deal with Sky any time soon!
Although Working Title is effectively an NBC-Universal subsidiary, it is not included in the deal, meaning they still have to negotiate film-by-film distribution and exhibition deals.

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