Comcast’s Roberts: Sky satellite is ‘apples and oranges’ compared to DirecTV and Dish

DirecTV rooftop satellite dish
Image: DirecTV

With the satellite TV business in deep downward spiral here in the U.S., at least one analyst is saying Comcast executives are going to have to twist themselves into knots to explain why satellite distribution won’t be just as obsolete in Europe, now that Comcast’s has bid $31 billion for Sky.

“For Sky, we believe investors will have to be convinced that the acquisition’s international scale benefits will more than offset the risk of paying a decent valuation for a satellite pay TV distribution platform,” said Scotiabank analyst Jeff Fan.

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Not only is Sky the leading pay TV distributor in regions like the U.K. and Italy, Comcast pointed out in an investor presentation today, it also has deep content library, including broadcast rights to the Premier League—which is kind of like having the NFL locked up in the U.S.

“I think it's apples and oranges,” responded Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, in a conference call with investment analysts today. “From our vantage point, and for their track record, the results they just reported, there is no comparison to the satellite operator in U.S. “

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“They have a pretty complete company,” Roberts added. “They’re also in an incredible and enviable position as a content aggregator … Their business has been growing, they are able to go into the over-the-top world with their Sky Now product, they can go into other markets through wireless and broadband-only, they do bundle mobile and broadband as part of their appeal to consumers. We think it’s just more like Comcast and NBCUniversal than any company we’ve seen.”

For his part, MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett noted that the word “satellite” never even appears in the Comcast presentation. 

“Yes, Sky is more than just a direct-to-home satellite TV distributor, but... well, let’s face it, Sky is a direct-to-home satellite TV distributor,” Moffett said. “And yes, Sky is also a broadband provider… but it is a resale broadband platform, not a facilities-based one, and therefore it is one that, unlike in the U.S., lacks any competitive advantage whatsoever.”

In the U.S., the satellite TV business is shrinking fast, with Dish Network alone losing more than 1 million customers last year.