Since it was switched on around 23 years ago, Sky has grown into the country’s biggest media company, with almost half the country signed up to its services. For the past few years, its default brand statement has been ‘Your Happy Place’ and the comms around that idea have been top notch. But it’s started to roll out its new brand identity, which features the tagline ‘Come With Us’ and aims to bring the work of the broadcaster to the fore.
- Read about some of Sky's ondemand, mobile and time-shifted developments here.
Sky's head of corporate comms Kirsty Way says the new “non-threatening, inviting” brand statement (if you say it in the style of cult leader or kidnapper, you can definitely make it sound threatening) suits the company well, whether it’s as an above the line device asking consumers to “explore the depth of content on offer” or as an internal mantra that gives staff a sense of belonging and asks them to “come on a journey with us”.
The rebrand has already been rolled out at Sky HQ, but Way says it would rather consumers notice the new identify by themselves, so it has been soft launched and is featuring on customer bills and press releases. Not surprisingly, plenty of above-the-line activity is also planned for the coming months but much of that is still thought to be in production.
“It’s not just a logo and an advertising campaign,” she says. In fact, she says it initially started off as an internal statement aimed at its staff before being worked into a bigger idea with the help of Interbrand Sydney, which also did the branding work for its other pay TV product (and joint venture with TVNZ) Igloo.
Sky was 44 percent owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire until earlier this year, but that shareholding was sold in March. It's also regularly been in the regulatory spotlight over the years, with complaints about its monopolistic behaviour and a recent ComCom investigation into its exclusive content deals. And that has led to a few perception problems (as chief executive John Fellet pointed out in a feisty letter responding to an editorial in The Listener recently), with research showing there was a disconnect between the Sky brand and the content it screened.
“We would love to be able to help consumers realise what goes on behind the scenes at Sky," says Way. "We’re not just paying for content and rebroadcasting it. And that goes for sports and entertainment. The Soho channel was something we created. There is a lot of content from HBO, but there are some other great sources and we pulled that all together.”
As such, that role will be made more explicit and the main Sky brand will now be featured more prominently across its sub-brands in an effort to give the service provider a bit more personality (for example, 'Soho, brought to you by Sky').
Sky has also been criticised for its lack of local content. But Way says it films 350 live sports events every year and it has already taken some small steps to try and change that perception, with a series of vignettes released last year that show its local stripes.
“That’s a lot of Kiwis filming a lot of Kiwis playing sport,” she says. All up, she says Sky now employs around 1,100 people, plus hundreds of contractors and production staff. And that’s grown from less than 100 when it started.
Way admits growth is much harder to come by than it was ten years ago, not just because it already has around 847,000 customers, but because of the economic climate and the increased competition.
“But we add a huge amount of value with our programming experts selecting that content. And we will still keep offering new channels and new product offerings.”
Total advertising revenue has been increasing as a result of higher viewership and came to a total of NZ$67.2 million for the year ended 30 June 2012. That—and more customers for its premium MySky product—helped increase Sky's profit to $68.2 million in the six months ended December 31 2012, up from $62.7 million a year earlier. Sales were up four percent to $443 million.
- This story originally stated Sky was 44 percent owned by News Corp, but it sold its shareholding earlier this year.