‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Riviera’ boost Sky as own takeover saga drags on

Hit shows such as ‘Game of Thrones’ boosted British broadcaster Sky’s first-half earnings by 10 percent. (Courtesy HBO)
Updated 25 January 2018
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‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Riviera’ boost Sky as own takeover saga drags on

LONDON: Hit shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Riviera” helped Sky deliver a 10 percent rise in first-half earnings, underscoring the appeal of the European pay-TV group to the US media companies trying to buy it.
Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox was provisionally blocked this week from buying the shares in Sky it does not already own, although there are options that would allow the $15.7 billion deal to do through.
Sky, whose customer base rose by 365,000 in the half to 22.9 million, could then be sold to Disney if a separate sale of Murdoch’s TV and film assets receives the green light.
The British broadcaster reported revenue of £6.7 billion (SR35.52 billion) for the six months to the end of December, up 5 percent year-on-year and in line with the first quarter, while core earnings rose to £1.1 billion.
“This performance reflects the investment choices we have made in recent years, allowing us to more than offset the pressure on consumer spending across Europe, as more customers continue to choose Sky for more of their services,” Chief Executive Jeremy Darroch said.
The satellite-company, which operates in Italy, Germany and Austria as well as Britain and Ireland, said it would pay an interim dividend of 13.06 pence a share, on top of a special dividend of 10 pence, which UBS analysts said was a positive surprise.
Darroch said the company’s investment in original programming, such as dramas “Riviera” and “Tin Star,” drove viewing figures for Sky’s own channels up 6 percent.
“We have an exceptional line-up of acquired series, and when you add to that our own Sky Originals, it puts us in what I think is the strongest content position we’ve ever had,” he told reporters on Thursday.
The results come two days after Britain’s competition regulatory ruled that Fox’s bid to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own was not in the public interest.
Murdoch, who also owns newspapers in Britain, now has to come up with an arrangement that will prevent him from influencing the news agenda at Sky, for instance by spinning off its Sky News channel.
Darroch said Sky, along with Fox, was focused on this media ownership hurdle after the competition regulator dismissed concerns about Murdoch’s commitment to broadcasting standards.
“We are very much focused in the process with the (regulator) CMA,” he told reporters.
“We have (media) plurality as the final issue to work though, (...) and we’ll see where that takes us.”
He would not comment on the company’s thinking about Sky News, saying any messages about the 24-hour service would be given directly to staff.
“We have got a day job to do,” he said. “And I think you can see from results and the plan we are laying out for 2018 we are not being distracted from any of that.”
Before the government gives its final decision on the Fox deal in June, Sky faces the next auction for English Premier League rights, the cornerstone of its offer to soccer fans.
Some of the pressure on Sky to pay huge sums to retain the biggest packages of games has been eased by a deal it struck with its biggest rival BT to supply channels on each other’s platform.
Darroch said he wouldn’t give a running commentary on the auction, adding Sky’s bid strategy was commercially sensitive.


Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

  • Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump met with Twitter Inc’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday and spent a significant time questioning him about why he has lost some Twitter followers, a person briefed on the matter said.
The meeting, which was organized by the White House last week, came hours after Trump again attacked the social media company over his claims it is biased against conservatives.
“Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter. Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!” Trump tweeted, posting a photo of Dorsey and others with him in the Oval Office.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump suggested Twitter was biased against him without providing evidence. He wrote on Twitter that the company does not “treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory.”
Twitter said in a statement Dorsey had a “constructive meeting with the president of the United States today at the president’s invitation. They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 US elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis.”
Unlike other major US tech company executives, Dorsey had not previously met with Trump.
He was not invited to a December 2016 meeting with president-elect Trump that featured other major tech companies. Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign.
Trump has been upset about losing followers.
In October, Trump wrote that “Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join — they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all. A few weeks ago it was a Rocket Ship, now it is a Blimp! Total Bias?“
Any reduction is likely the result of Twitter’s recent moves to remove millions of suspicious accounts after it and other social media services were used in misinformation campaigns attempting to influence voters in the 2016 US presidential race and other elections, Reuters reported in October.
Shares in Twitter jumped 13 percent on Tuesday after it reported quarterly revenue above analyst estimates, which executives said was the result of weeding out spam and abusive posts and targeting ads better.
Trump lost 204,000, or 0.4 percent, of his 53.4 million followers in July when Twitter started its purge of suspicious accounts, according to social media data firm Keyhole.
Trump has one of the most-followed accounts on Twitter. But the president and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly criticized the company and its social media competitors for what they have called bias against conservatives, something Twitter denies.
Democratic US Senator Mazie Hirono said earlier this month “we cannot allow the Republican party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already fail to remove hateful, dangerous and misleading content.”
Carlos Monje, Twitter’s public policy director, said at a Senate hearing earlier this month the site “does not use political viewpoints, perspectives or party affiliation to make any decisions, whether related to automatically ranking content on our service or how we develop or enforce our rules.”