For anyone wondering whether Comcast Corp.'s dramatic $39 billion takeover of Sky Plc would bring a major overhaul, the new owner emerged at the broadcaster's London headquarters with a consoling message: We come in peace.
Comcast chief executive officer Brian Roberts is trying to rein in any expectations for more big mergers and acquisitions or a significant shift in how Sky is managed, after the deal triggered speculation throughout the continent's media industry.
Roberts said he's got his "plate full" after the deal for Sky, which will delist in London on Wednesday and become part of Philadelphia-based Comcast. "Sky is a great business," he said in an interview. "Let's do no harm and let them run the company."
Comcast had to deliver a knockout bid to secure Sky and its 23 million European subscribers and see off rival suitor 21st Century Fox Inc., backed by Walt Disney Co. That's left investors wondering how Roberts intends to squeeze more value out of the combined business to make the deal pay off.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Roberts laid out a light-touch strategy for Sky that chimes with how Comcast dealt with NBCUniversal, its most recent big acquisition, almost a decade ago.
Comcast shares fell heavily after the deal for the U.S. TV and film production giant was announced on concern it had overpaid. Roberts said investors now see that takeover as a success.
Comcast has taken a relatively hands-off approach to managing NBCUniversal and Roberts indicated he would use a similar style with Sky and its CEO, Jeremy Darroch, stressing how he would let Darroch run the business and make the big decisions himself.
"The way we will operate the company is he knows the market better than me. Those opportunities he will pick and choose," Roberts said.
Akin to Comcast in the U.S., Sky sells bundles of TV, mobile, and internet services, luring subscribers with premium programming such as English Premier League soccer and original dramas such as the 1920s sex-and-crime saga Babylon Berlin.
Roberts sees Sky's geographic reach as helping Comcast diversify out of the U.S., which has been hit by consumers cutting their expensive cable packages in favor of cheaper options from Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. Comcast's sales from outside the U.S. will rise to 25 percent of overall revenues when it owns Sky, vs. 9 percent currently.
Roberts held a town-hall meeting with thousands of Sky employees earlier Tuesday where he conveyed a message of continuity.
Pressed for examples of how Comcast will work with Sky in the future, Roberts said their joint promotion of the new Universal film The Grinch gives a flavor of the kind of collaboration now possible. He also mentioned how Sky's U.K. news channel could draw upon NBC's coverage of the U.S. midterm elections and said Sky was using Comcast's home WiFi technology to help its rollout of broadband in Italy.
The change of ownership at Sky has revived speculation that it could reverse its approach of relying largely on other companies' networks to deliver broadband and mobile services.
Roberts said Darroch had played down the prospect of Sky investing heavily in infrastructure in the U.K., its biggest market, in the way that Comcast has in the U.S.