Sky Movies Boss: Studios Benefit From BSkyB Deals, Shortened Windows


Footage of a Chinese character dying, and references to prostitution and torture were edited out of the Chinese release of the 2012 James Bond film. One scene completely cut included a hitman (Ola Rapace) killing a Chinese security guard. In another, Bond (Daniel Craig) questions a woman (Berenice Marlohe) about her tattoo, which indicates she had been forced into prostitution as a child. The audio was kept in, but the subtitles instead read she was being extorted by the mob. When Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva tells Bond about being captured in Hong Kong and then tortured, the subtitles did not tell the whole tale.

Ian Lewis also says Ultraviolet isn't "quite there yet" and argues his company's Internet-only video service is not a direct Netflix competitor.

LONDON -- Movie studios licensing their content to BSkyB and making their films available earlier to subscribers of its movie services can create a virtuous cycle that benefits their U.K. theatrical and DVD business, Sky Movies director Ian Lewis said Wednesday.

Speaking at the PEVE Entertainment 2013 conference at the British Museum, he said a licensing deal for all James Bond films that allowed his firm to launch a Sky Movies 007 channel late last year helped create excitement around the theatrical release of Skyfall, which set British box-office records. Plus, the availability of Skyfall on Sky Movies day-and-date with the DVD release didn't hurt DVD sales, but built awareness around the film's DVD release.

"There are huge benefits in creating a huge launch moment rather than stagger" DVD and premium-TV release windows, Lewis said. Collaboration between the studios and BSkyB "helps DVD and cinema sales and drives Sky's business," he said. "It is creating a virtuous circle ... Content owners and distributors can grow the business if they embrace change" together.

A recent content licensing deal with Walt Disney that included the launch of new channel Sky Movies Disney, for example, was designed to "help grow each other's business," the executive said.

Arguing that consumers have continued demand for great storytelling, Lewis said "the creative part of our industry is in great shape," highlighting such recent films as Oscar winner Argo, latest James Bond film Skyfall and superhero franchises.

But new approaches to distribution and packaging and continued technological innovation are key to feed consumers' appetite. For example, piracy, which hurts all players, is driven by a lack of availability of content, Lewis warned.

When the previous Bond film Quantum of Solace hit Sky Movies 45 days after its DVD release, it didn't create as big a bang as Skyfall did, he highlighted. "The marketing that the industry collectively spent seems very inefficient," Lewis argued.

Sky Movies has been offering some films ahead of their DVD releases and has been looking for more early access to movies.

Lewis on Wednesday also said that Ultraviolet must become easier to understand and more consumer-friendly to truly break through.

"I don't think it's quite there yet," he said when asked about it. While it is "great" that film studios, consumer electronics companies and other industry players have agreed on a standard for offering cloud locker services on home entertainment releases, he said: "It's quite complicated ... If it takes me four or five minutes to explain to my CEO, it’s not ready to take to the market yet and explain to customers."

Since not every film is available through UltraViolet, customers have fears about availability and compatibility, he argued.

Plus, not all studios seem to have the same vision yet for the digital locker, Lewis argued. "I'm not sure that even all the Hollywood studios are lined up on exactly what they think Ultraviolet is," he said.

Lewis was also asked about BSkyB's standalone online streaming service Now TV, which started late last year with movies and recently added sports content. While some have called it an attempt to offer a Netflix and Lovefilm killer, he argued they are not "direct competitors" since Now TV is a premium product with a premium price tag.

While BSkyB has already renewed content deals with four of the six major Hollywood studios, beating out Netflix for at least some of the deals, Lewis wasn't ready to talk badly about competitors. "Just because we're making progress doesn't mean that others can't, too," he said.

"We see that as a key part of growing the overall business," Lewis said. "We're very pleased with how Now TV started."

Discussing Sky Store, a service that offers more than 1,000 movies on a pay-as-you-go basis, he said it already has more than two million potential users. Some Sky Movies subscribers get Sky Store films to take advantage of its added selection, while other people prefer to use Sky Store instead of signing up for Sky Movies, he said, predicting more Sky Store growth ahead.

Twitter: @georgszalai