Munich At the beginning of July Sky Deutschland turned ten years old. But not all employees feel like celebrating. Because CEO Carsten Schmidt is rebuilding at the head office of the pay-TV station, numerous jobs have been eliminated. "At the Unterföhring site we employ around 2,000 people and we are talking about a double-digit number of affected positions as well as a low double-digit number of executives," the manager told Handelsblatt.
Schmidt wants to complete the dismantling as soon as possible. "Among other things, we are going through a volunteer program that communicates with employees and is completely transparent. This process will be completed by September, "said Schmidt. The goal is that Sky Germany become more effective and agile.
The restructuring is not a sign of economic weakness of the subsidiary of the US group Comcast, Schmidt emphasized: "What we are doing now is something that every successful company should do, namely reinvent itself again and again." At the same time Sky also new employees, "only we are looking for other competences".
Read the full interview with Carsten Schmidt here:
Mr Schmidt, on 4 July, Sky Germany turned ten years old. How is your personal record?
Very positive. With the renaming of Premiere in Sky Germany, we changed more than the name. We have sparked a departure euphoria. Since then we have developed excellently. It has emerged a fast-growing, innovative company.
A company, however, in which you have apparently identified significant need for change. You have just initiated a profound change in personnel. What exactly happens with Sky?
What we are doing now is something every successful company should do, namely reinvent itself over and over again. I am now in the company for 20 years. In the meantime we have grown rapidly, also among the employees. Naturally, structures and processes have evolved, which we are now adapting – we implement a clear plan that helps us for our business and takes into account the future needs of our customers. As a result, our decision-making processes become even more effective and we become even more agile.
Are you responding to the increasingly fierce competition?
Of course we keep an eye on the market, but the current process was based on a thorough analysis. We took enough time for this, it does not happen overnight. We now deal with it very transparently in the company and take the workforce as well as possible.
How many passages are missing?
Just as our business evolves according to customer needs, so do the skills we need. At the Unterföhring site we employ around 2,000 people and we are talking about a double-digit number of affected positions as well as a low double-digit number of executives. Among other things, we are going through a volunteer program that communicates with employees and is completely transparent. This process will be completed by September. And most importantly, we also hire, but we are looking for other skills.
How do you want to attract new employees if you also reduce jobs? This should scare off applicants but once?
We want to become a digital company that is famous for its content and that is highly engaging for both innovation-minded people and program professionals. For this we invest massively in content, but also in technology. In addition, we build a digital and flexible working environment, be it through e-learning offers or the opportunity for employees to make their own work more flexible in terms of time and space. In addition, we are becoming more international, focusing more on diversity and inclusion. And our employees should be able to act even more entrepreneurially in the future.
Keyword Employees – how do you take these with you?
I personally have many conversations, video blogs, and we've just talked extensively with the staff in a fish bowl event.
A fish bowl event?
Yes, this is a format in which the management answers the questions of the employees and answers them directly. I was thrilled with the dedication of the staff and the excellent questions they asked. It gave me the impression that everyone is ready to go along the path that has been taken.
Feel a stronger centralization within the sky–Group?
No, I see that only positively. I have worked in many constellations: when we were still part of Kirch, when financial investors were in charge, and even when we were independent in the stock market. Through the Sky Group we receive the optimal support and can make the most of synergies. And I assure you: I can run the business as freely as ever.
Since Sky Germany belongs to Comcast, no numbers are published anymore for business in this country. What can you say about the development?
Unfortunately I can not give you any detailed information. Only so much: I am satisfied with the first half of the year. We are on a good way. We are growing.
You have been investing heavily for some time in the area of in-house productions. Do you continue this way?
Yes, we are making our way more determined and more intense than ever before.
Sky has now bundled its own productions internationally at Sky Studios. What good is that and how can you independently choose which series you want to invest in?
The decision as to which German in-house productions are being developed and produced will continue to be made in Germany as before. In addition, we benefit from the new lineup: Here, a small team of less than ten people takes care of our own series production. This will continue to be so, in addition to the Sky Studios is a much larger team in the international network. This helps us to increase output faster and supports financing with new evaluation models. We will produce much more in future than before. We want to more than double our investments in our so-called "Sky Originals" over the next five years across Europe.
For Germany, you have announced eight in-house productions per year. Is that enough to convince in competition?
I am convinced of that. It's about quality and not quantity. So far we have succeeded well. With "Das Boot" and "Babylon Berlin" we are already in the coming winter or spring in the second round. The series were also a great success at Sky in Italy and England. And together with the two countries, we can expect significantly more Sky original series a year.
What is your summary of the first own productions?
All previous German Sky Originals have exceeded our expectations. Of course, we knew about the power of "Babylon Berlin" and "the boat", that's why we were especially happy about the success of "Der Pass" and "8 Tage".
Meanwhile, it seems that competitors are working together more and more. Even Netflix can be seen on your platform.
That's right, Netflix can be received via Sky Q DAZN has acquired a sublicense of the UEFA Champions League from us and last year we sub-licensed the ARD a Bundesliga live game. We enter into cooperations where they make sense. Elsewhere, you're also a competitor.
For a long time your business model was purely focused on long-term subscriptions. Meanwhile, there are new models, what's next?
Multi-year contracts continue to be important as many customers still wish. If you subscribe to Sky Q, you'll get the best you can get on German TV from 19.99 euros a month. In addition to the Sky program – linear and on demand – the package includes the public service libraries as well as partners such as Netflix. We will continue to expand and improve Sky Q. At the same time, customers can also use the Sky Ticket streaming service to complete daily, weekly or monthly subscriptions. Sky Ticket has developed very well and we will improve the offer significantly.
They have again acquired the rights of the English Football League Premier League. What do you promise?
We expect both customer growth and rising satisfaction through the Premier League. By winning back the English league as well as the Formula One we have the best portfolio in the live sports area in combination with the existing sports rights. In total, we speak of 9000 live hours plus our 24/7 channel Sky Sport News.
Many customers have subscribed to Sky especially because of the Bundesliga. In autumn, the rights will be awarded for the seasons starting in 2021. What significance does the law have for you?
Of course, we are very interested in the Bundesliga – and the Bundesliga to us.
Do you expect rising prices?
Nobody can say anything about the prices today. We have a deep understanding of the value of sports rights for us and our customers. As with any legal tender, we will also be clearly positioned in the upcoming one. The market survey of potential interests for the new Bundesliga rights, which was conducted by the Bundeskartellamt in coordination with the DFL, is currently underway. It will show what the packaging will look like and whether there will be multiple buyers, or even a single bidder may come into play.
Basically: Do you expect a more intense competition?
There will always be a competition for football rights. How intense that turns out ultimately depends on the market. But we are quite self-confident: Sky has shown for the last ten years that the Bundesliga can rely on us.
You have been there for a long time. What is your personal plan?
I'm highly motivated and have a lot in mind at Sky. But I also once said in an interview that I will no longer run the company at age 60. I still stand for that. Now I am 55.
Mr. Schmidt, thank you very much for the interview.
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