What is SkyShowtime?

In August this year, Sky announced it would be partnering with ViacomCBS to launch a new subscription video on demand (SVOD) service, Sky Showtime, in 20+ European markets including Spain, Portugal and the Nordics. 

Launching in 2022, the service will include over 10,000 hours of content, spanning a range of genres, including dramas, kids and family, premiere movies and documentaries from a range of studios.  

A quick history…

Sky, ViacomCBS and Comcast (Sky’s parent company) have all ventured into the SVOD market before.

Back in 2017, Sky launched an OTT service in Spain called SkyEspaña, which closed down just three years later because it “failed to make an impact in a crowded market”.

Now (formerly called Now TV) has been more successful in contending with other streaming providers. Launched by Sky in 2012 as a contract-free option to access Sky TV content, it held the position of the third most popular SVOD service in the UK, before the launch of Disney+ in 2020.

Paramount+ and Peacock

ViacomCBS owns Paramount+, an SVOD service currently accessible in Australia, Canada, Latin America, the US and the Nordics – with plans to launch in the UK and other European markets in 2022.

In addition to this, Comcast is expanding its advertising-based VOD service Peacock outside of North America at the end of 2021, making its content available to Sky and Now customers in the UK and Europe through their current subscription at no extra cost.

So how does SkyShowtime fit into all this? When it launches next year, Paramount+ will be pulled from the Nordics to be replaced with SkyShowtime. SkyShowtime will then run in separate markets around Europe to Peacock, Paramount+ and Now – enabling Sky and ViacomCBS to showcase their programming in markets where they have limited content deals available. The partnership has a lot of potential, but introducing a new service into a fierce SVOD market will not come without challenges.

The battle for content

Since the introduction of SVOD, it has become increasingly common for users of video streaming services to ‘stack’ subscriptions, i.e. subscribe to more than one. The proportion of SVOD stackers in the UK has increased from 26% in Q4 2019 to 44% in Q2 2021, according to data from MTM’s proprietary tracker ScreenThink, with the average number of video subscriptions currently at 2.3.

With a group of strong services already leading the market and more new-comers on their way – HBO Max is also debuting in Spain and Portugal later this month – it’s a crowded landscape, and Sky Showtime will need to have an impressive content offering and stand out against a host of rival platforms if they are to win their spot in viewers’ stacks.

Over the past few years Sky has focused its efforts on content production: starting its own production company, Sky Studios, in 2019; building 32-acre studio facilities, Sky Studios Elstree, set to open in 2022; and announcing plans to double its annual original content budget to $1 billion by 2024.

Though these efforts have contributed to the production of popular series such as I Hate Suzie and Gangs of London, Sky still faces tough competition when it comes to original content, as the budgets of SVOD giants increase more every year. Netflix reportedly spent $11.8 billion on content last year and predict this will increase to $17 billion over 2021, while Disney+ expects to be spending $8-9 billion by 2024.

Now’s success can partly be attributed to the fact that it operates in markets where Sky has prominent sports rights such as the Premier League and the Bundesliga, as well as deals with high profile networks like HBO, enabling it to bring hit content such as Westworld and Game of Thrones to Now users, alongside Sky Originals. However, making a splash in markets outside of these contracts requires Sky to broaden its offering in another way, and the partnership with ViacomCBS will do just that.

This interesting collaboration will strengthen Sky and Comcast’s current repertoire (consisting of films and TV shows from Sky Studios, Universal Pictures, and Peacock) by adding content from ViacomCBS’s Showtime, Paramount Pictures, Paramount+ Originals and Nickelodeon, and we’ll be watching with interest next year to see how SkyShowtime fairs in a competitive market.