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NBCU reveals Sky plans

NBCUniversal International (NBCUI) is set to make a raft of changes following parent Comcast’s acquisition of Sky including closing parts of distributor-producer Sky Vision and restructuring its own channels, C21 understands.

Kevin MacLellan

Under the proposals, Sky Vision will see its sales operation folded into NBCUniversal Global Distribution, under divisional chairman Kevin MacLellan.

The company’s production entities, including Bake Off prodco Love Productions, Znak & Co and Sugar Films, are set to remain separate from NBCUI’s studios operation, which houses Downton Abbey firm Carnival and Working Title.

They will instead be overseen by Sky Vision MD Jane Millichip, who is set to remain with the outfit with oversight of the production companies and production company deficit funding, C21 understands.

Meanwhile, NBCUI’s UK pay TV networks, including Syfy, E! and Universal TV, will be moved into Sky’s pay TV headquarters at Osterley in the UK.

Sky Deutschland will become parent to NBCU’s networks in Germany, possibly moving to the former’s Unterföhring offices, while the structure of the wider NBCU channels business across EMEA is under review.

UK-based staff are expected to move to Sky’s Osterley campus, where Sky’s programming team is overseen by content chief Gary Davey and director of programming Zai Bennett.

Job losses are expected as part of the proposed restructure, which remains in its early stages, although both companies hope to accommodate employees in new roles where required.

Jane Millichip

In an email to staff this morning, seen by C21, Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch said the changes are part of plans to “grow our audiences and bring our customers even better content” while working “more effectively and efficiently with our new colleagues.”

“The first proposed change we have announced today is to combine NBCU’s pay TV channels with our own, basing them on our campus in Osterley. The second is to move NBCU’s Europe, Middle East and Africa networks’ London-based team to the same location,” Darroch said.

“In Germany, Sky will become the parent company of NBCU’s Networks business and we plan to explore ways for both businesses to work more closely together, including possible co-location to Unterföhring.

“Finally, we are proposing that Sky’s content sales and distribution activities, currently managed by Sky Vision, be operated by NBCU’s Global Distribution business.

“We recognise that these proposals could have an impact on some of our colleagues within Sky and NBCU and, as always, they will be fully supported through these changes.”

The changes come six months after NBCU parent Comcast completed its acquisition of Sky, and seven years after the formation of Sky Vision, which was launched in 2012 after the pay TV operator bought and then rebranded Parthenon.

Jeremy Darroch

Sky Vision has gone on to become a significant force in distribution with a catalogue that runs to around 6,500 hours of programming, including scripted shows such as Sky1’s Curfew, Sky Germany series 8 Days, Fortitude, Britannia and forthcoming drama Catherine the Great, for Sky and HBO in the US.

The company, which unveiled its slate for MipTV at the end of last month, is also behind factual series such as Secret Life of the Zoo and Sky Atlantic’s Dirty Business, fact ent shows including Channel 4’s Famous and Fighting Crime, and formats Battlebots and Revolution, the latter a competition show from US-based Znak & Co.

It also launched Sky Vision Productions, which has companies under its umbrella that include Love, Blast! Films, True North, Chrysalis Vision and Avanti Media in the UK, as well as Znak & Co, Jupiter Entertainment and Talos Films.

Sky Vision’s own production arm was shuttered last year, with director of programming and development Danny Tipping moving to Sky-backed Znak & Co.

The changes will see Sky Vision’s 6,500 hours of programming added to the catalogue of NBCUI Distribution, which falls under the remit of NBCU’s chairman of global distribution and international MacLellan. The division is responsible for sales of all TV and digital programming outside of North America for NBCU, with more than 120,000 TV episodes and over 4,000 movies on its slate.

Satpal Brainch

The final structure of the new-look channels business is not yet finalised but senior execs are also expected to leave as the two companies align their programming departments.

NBCUI restructured its distribution and network operations across EMEA in 2015,  appointing Satpal Brainch as MD of distribution and networks EMEA. He was moved to become president of CNBC Business News Worldwide in November.

Brainch had reported to Belinda Menendez, president of NBCUI Distribution and Networks, while Carolyn Stalins, senior VP of distribution for EMEA, leads NBCUI’s content distribution across the region.

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