[Interview] Monty Sarhan (SkyShowtime): It’s still early days for streaming services
On October 25, 2022, SkyShowtime launched as a streaming service from Paramount and Comcast in the Netherlands.
Monty Sarhan is CEO of SkyShowtime after serving as vice president at Comcast for more than 2 years, previously holding key positions at EPIX (MGM) and then Viacom (predecessor Paramount).
We talk to him about the launch of SkyShowtime and how he views the Dutch (streaming) market.
How do you reflect on the relatively late launch of a streaming service of Paramount and Comcast in the streaming business in the Netherlands and how do you think to obtain a significant market share also considering the huge inflation?
Streaming is only growing in Europe—it’s still early days across all of our territories—and the Netherlands is a great market. There are 7,77 million broadband households, yet still less than two streaming subscriptions per household.
As an industry, streaming has only been around for the past 15 years and there are only five or six major streaming services. Fifteen years after television was invented, I doubt anyone said, five channels are enough. For that reason, we are excited about the opportunity to bring our great content to Dutch audiences.
What will distinguish us in the market will be both content and price. Consumers want choice and they want to watch the content that matters most to them. Sumner Redstone famously said, Content is king. That is as true today as it ever was and that is what makes us unique.
SkyShowtime was created by two of the world’s biggest entertainment companies: Paramount and Comcast, parent company of Universal, NBC, and Sky. We bring together the best of their content. SkyShowtime is the home for new theatrically released films from Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, which will premiere exclusively on SkyShowtime. They are the two oldest studios in Hollywood. And on the television side, the two companies operate three successful streaming services in the United States: Paramount+, Peacock, and Showtime. We bring together the best shows from those services as well as premium European series from Sky Studios.
Creating value for customers is incredibly important as well. We realize that rising inflation is making it harder for consumers. For that reason, we have made sure that SkyShowtime is well-priced. That’s our value proposition: great content at a great price. And by having some of the world’s best content at an amazing price, we believe we will stand out in the marketplace and that consumers are going to want SkyShowtime.
SkyShowtime is registered in the Netherlands and is obliged according to EU-laws to offer 30 procent European content. How will SkyShowtime realise this?
Local programming is incredibly important and we will have local programming on our service from the outset, through our Sky Studios productions as well as our library. This includes titles such as The Rising, The Hanging Sun, Fear Index, Souls, and Blocco 181. We will also license and produce local original programming, including series, documentaries, and specials. It’s still early days—we have yet to launch in most of our markets—and it takes time to develop original programming. What I can tell you is that it is a key focus for us over the coming months.
It seems Paramount and NBC Universal have continuing to sell relevant content to third parties. How exclusive is SkyShowtime?
SkyShowtime was created specifically for Europe by two of the world’s biggest entertainment companies—Comcast and Paramount—and we bring together the best of their content for our markets across Europe. We are the home for new theatrically released films from Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures. They will premiere exclusively on SkyShowtime. On the television side, we will be premiering some great new shows from Paramount+, Peacock, Showtime, and Sky Studios. Those will also premiere exclusively as well.
Streamingproviders like Netflix and Disney+ are launching ad-versions. They also offer 4K and limit the sharing accountposibilities. At the same time they have deals with cable/IPTV providers. What are SkyShowtime’s lpans?
Everything we do starts with the consumer. We think about what is best for our customers from a content perspective, as well as a product and experience perspective. That means we believe in meeting the consumer where they are and allowing them to access SkyShowtime in multiple ways. As a direct-to-consumer service, this means being distributed widely both on a standalone basis and through partnerships, including with distributors. We will always be focused on expanding our reach, building partnerships across our markets, and making SkyShowtime as accessible as possible across platforms and devices.
We are focused on providing great value to our customers by offering them quality content at a great price. As both SkyShowtime and our customers evolve, we will continually evaluate how we provide the best possible experience and offering to our subscribers.
What is your opinion about wanting to regulate and oblige companies to invest more and adopt into European industry for non-European players on one hand but also to enforce local companies?
SkyShowtime was created specifically for Europe and is dedicated to these markets. We have six offices in Europe and will launch in more than 20 European markets. Our platform, as well as series and movies, will be available in 18 different languages. We know that our customers are looking for a mix of global and local series and movies. We realize that people want storytelling that is authentic, that is meaningful, stories that speak to them, and that representation matters. And so local programming is a big part of our value proposition and one of our key content pillars. We will have local programming on our service from the outset through our Sky Studios productions as well as in our library. We’re literally just launching our service and of course it takes time to develop original programming, but it will be a key focus over the coming months.
I noticed SkyShowtime is not announced for countries with more languages like Switzerland and Belgium. In German speaking Switzerland Paramount+ is announced to launch on December 8. But for Belgium no streaming platform from Paramount and Comcast nor SkyShowtime has been announced to launch. What are the plans for Belgium? Why was this country not part of the launch plans?
Comcast and Paramount created SkyShowtime for our 22 markets in Europe. We are focused on delivering the best content and experience possible for audiences in those markets. At the present time, we don’t have any plans to expand beyond these markets.