Chief executive Jeremy Darroch tells David Hellier how he is bent on encouraging even more people to fall in love with Sky
Talking about the way BSkyB has changed over the years, its chief executive Jeremy Darroch says: “You don’t keep being successful by doing things in the same way.”
As he speaks, I can’t help being struck by the artefacts around his open-plan office and around the new corporate centre at the firm’s headquarters.
There’s a host of newspaper front pages relating to the Team Sky (a joint venture with Fox) in the Tour de France and at the other end of the building there are pictures on the wall of Toy Story characters. Then there’s the Madame Tussaud-like models of Spiderman and other Marvel characters.
There’s hardly a Premier League football image in sight in the main part of the building, although a massive picture of Steven Gerrard adorns one of Darroch’s walls.
A visitor to Osterley even a few months ago was greeted with far more football imagery.
These days, BSkyB is all about presenting a broader picture of its activities. Not that its coverage of live football isn’t still important, but it is a company that is diversifying big-time.
“The story over the last few years has been that we have been broadening out from a narrow set of services and we have launched a whole range of new services,” Darroch says.
He’s referring mainly to Sky Go, which enables subscribers to watch Sky channels when they’re on the move; Sky Now, which enables non-subscribers to subscribe on a daily basis; Sky On Demand, which includes box sets and SkyStore.
In the past, previous chief executives have focused on a rigid subscriber growth target. Now, with BSkyB’s UK subscribers at around 11m, which some say is close to saturation, Darroch is concentrating on selling different services to the same people and new services to people the group has never reached before.
Darroch says the policy of investing in content, such as comedy, has helped persuade people to buy into BSkyB. “People consume a lot more pay content and a lot more Sky content,” he says. Darroch was speaking ahead of full-year results in late July, which are expected to be strong, and also ahead of the next auction for Premier League football rights.
Rather sensationally, BSkyB lost the battle for European Champions League rights to its new and financially powerful rival BT and faces the real possibility of being defeated by BT again when it comes to the divvying up of Premier League rights.
Such a prospect would have caused seismic tremors in the past, but Darroch, with his new broadened Sky in the background, takes the whole thing in his stride.
“It’s just one sport,” is one of the things he says, suggesting he won’t be in the mind-set to overpay in order to deprive BT of its much-wanted prize.
There’s a feeling he will rely on his group’s expertise to help it gain the plum packages rather than simply relying on paying top dollar. After all, BSkyB has done such a good job for the Premier League over 20 years or so that it would be a risk too far for many club chairmen if it were no longer the senior partner.
“One of the reasons we are pushing the boundaries of sports production is because we want to say to people, ‘We will showcase your sport in a great way.’”
And if Sky does lose out on the top packages, there’s always the likelihood of doing a wholesale deal with BT to keep its subscribers in the loop. But if that were to happen we would be in uncharted territory, with Sky playing second fiddle in football for the first time.
Darroch will tell you the modern Sky has so much more to fall back on. But losing prime position in Premier League rights would be a big gamble.
CV JEREMY DARROCH
Job title: Chief executive of BSkyB. He is also a non-executive director of Burberry
Lives: Weybridge, Surrey
Family: Married with three children
Education: Studied economics at the University of Hull
TV faves: Game of Thrones and Ryder Cup on Sky Sports