Sky Sports' Francis steps up to global role and succeeded by Webster
Sky, the European pay-television giant, has elevated Barney Francis, the long-serving head of Sky Sports in the UK, to a new global role as chief executive of future sport, with responsibility for assessing international opportunities in the sector under new owner Comcast, the US media giant, and alongside now sister network NBC Universal.
Francis (pictured) has been at Sky for over two decades, and has served as managing director of Sky Sports since 2009 when he succeeded the late Vic Wakeling.
In his new role, reporting to Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch, Francis “will focus on the changing world of sport and the place Sky and NBCU occupy, working with colleagues across both organisations to look at global opportunities for growth for the benefit of the whole of Comcast,” the company said.
Comcast completed its takeover of Sky last October in a deal worth £29.7 billion ($38.7 billion), having outbid Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to end the Murdoch family’s long association with the company.
Darroch said: “Barney has driven growth and innovation for Sky Sports in the face of increased competition in the Sports market, finding new and better ways to bring fans closer to the content they love. This makes him one of the most qualified executives to anticipate where the next big opportunities lie for us.”
In the latest management restructuring, Rob Webster who has himself spent 22 years at Sky, becomes managing director of Sky Sports, reporting to Sky’s UK and Republic of Ireland chief executive Stephen van Rooyen.
Sky has hailed Francis’ achievements in attracting rights to events such as Formula 1 and golf’s US Masters and British Open, while ensuring it remains the main TV home in the UK of English soccer’s much-coveted Premier League, with a new three-year rights deal kicking in next season, and English cricket, which it has retained until 2024.
During his tenure the number of Sky Sports channels has increased from five to 11, including those dedicated to soccer, cricket, Formula 1 and golf.
Francis said: “I’m very proud of what we achieved together and when I look back at the challenges we’ve faced, the moments we’ve seized and the incredible drama of live sport we’ve captured - it’s been an absolute privilege.
“Personally I’m looking forward to the challenge of taking on a new global role and helping to tackle some big questions, but I’ll also be keeping a very close eye as Sky Sports continues to go from strength to strength.
During his time at Sky, Webster has filled various roles across group partner channels, legal and channels and operations. Most recently he has been responsible for negotiating deals with global content partners across all Sky territories and has also led multiple channel distribution negotiations with the broadcast industry.
Van Rooyen said of the new head of Sky Sports: “He is a strong team player with expertise in commercial deals and brings with him strong external partner relationships. I know that Rob will bring a fresh perspective to Sky Sports and will be working closely with the extremely capable senior team there to build on the plans already in place.”
Sky recently reported revenue of $4.8 billion for the first quarter of 2019, down 5 per cent from $5.05 billion in the same period a year earlier, with earnings falling 17 per cent to $663 million, partly the result of higher expenses driven by new contracts for Serie A and Uefa Champions League soccer rights in Italy and Germany.
Sky now has 23.7 million subscribers across the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.