Sam Aldred: a tale of two Sky TVs

It’s a tale of two cities, two Sky TVs and two very different sets of results. For one in London, the best of times, for the other the worst. While Sky in Europe is posting strong results, its local namesake is struggling.

It’s an odd situation, as the UK, in particular, is several years ahead of the technology curve than in New Zealand. Over there, sport is no longer exclusive, there is a compelling free to air offering, Amazon is in the market and there’s a multitude of other cable competitors. Basically, everything that the market fears for Sky NZ has already happened and it’s champagne all round.

So, what’s the problem for Sky NZ? On one hand, nothing.  Big revenue, big profit, low debt. On the other, the share price is at an all time low – 41 percent down in the last 12 months. It’s a hell of a beat down for a company just playing the standard corporate hand to a slowly declining profitable asset. The trouble is that markets like cool stuff like electric cars, less so slowly diminishing media companies.

So what to do? I’ve written recently a list of practical (and sandwich-related) actions for Sky NZ so let’s play a little: Sky needs to be either buying or selling.  For a cash-rich company, why not think about getting bigger? Want diversified income, digital transformation, global reach? How about making a play for Vista Group, a brilliant New Zealand entertainment software company? What about an investment in Parrot Analytics? It’s one of the leading TV data companies in the world (and based in Auckland). Suddenly, Sky is a technology company, selling across the world. I reckon that would feel a little more like electric cars to the NZX.  

Of course, the flip side is that Sky NZ might find itself the target for someone else, the lower share price has to make the business more vulnerable (or perhaps it’s just a good time to buy shares).

There is presumably scope for various debt loading skullduggery and a profitable exit for any financial sharks circling. More productively, someone like Singtel Group might like the look of a media company that has options to move into telecommunications.

Either way, change is probably afoot and Sky has a reputation for being a very efficient business where profit is paramount. If nothing else, this probably rules them out of a late bid for the Warriors.

  • Sam Aldred is the director of Receptive.tv. He regularly writes for StopPress on issues relating to the television industry.   

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