Sky Deutschland names Williams' successor

Managing director of BSkyB to take over March 31

COLOGNE, Germany -- BSkyB exec Brian Sullivan will replace Mark Williams as head of leading German pay TV group Sky Deutschland, taking over March 31, Sky announced Wednesday.

Sullivan, currently managing director of BSkyB's customer group, will join Williams Jan. 1 as Sky's deputy CEO to learn the ropes for three months before taking over.

Williams, a longtime News Corp. veteran, joined Sky in September last year after News Corp. acquired a large minority stake in the troubled pay player, then called Premiere.

News Corp. has since upped its share to nearly 40% and Williams has pushed through a major rebranding and restructuring effort.

But turnaround for Sky is still a long way off. The German group booked a $175 million net loss in Q3 as revenues slipped 13% to around $315 million. Subscriber figures remain stubbornly low, at just 2.4 million, far behind Sky's BSkyB or Sky Italia, despite Germany's potential as a larger market.

Sullivan's main job will be to boost those figures to hit the company's target of a break even by Q4 next year. At BSkyB, Sullivan has helped develop the group's multiplatform approach, launching personal video recorder and HD services in Britain. The market for such services is still developing in Germany, but Sky faces stiff competition in the form of deep-pocketed local telcos.