Sky's Martin Stewart on negotiating with sporting bodies during pandemic

Sky Television may have seemed quiet under lockdown, with almost no live sport to broadcast, but its boss has revealed to Newshub he's been busy having tense discussions with sporting bodies over contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

COVID-19 has forced Sky TV to replay historic events and elite international sport is unlikely to happen for some time yet.

Sky Television won't pay for cancelled events and has been arguing the point with sports bodies around the world.

"Working out how much sport is going to be played in the year and working out how much has been missed and working out what they call an equitable reduction," says Sky TV chief executive Martin Stewart.

Stewart is keeping quiet on price, but says the sports rights together are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Negotiations include with SANZAAR - the organisation behind the Super Rugby competition, and Rugby Championship between New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and South Africa. That deal alone is understood to be worth between $400 million and $500 million.

Making talks rather tetchy.

"Negotiations are always the same, they're always tense at some point."

Asked if there have been disagreements, Stewart said "there always are".

He wouldn't say who with. 

Internally Sky TV was planning for a worst-case scenario, where there could have been no sporting events well into next year, meaning it would have had to cut $155 million worth of costs out of its business. Luckily, it's avoided that situation.

In fact, COVID-19 could even work in its favour. Stewart says the cost of sports rights are already falling and some of its competitors may go under. 

"You're going to see, I think, some broadcasters, some platforms not be able to survive." 

He's adamant Sky won't be among them.

"Sky has to keep evolving."

Stewart says it can afford to do that. 

"Yes, we just raised $157 million dollars."

He admits a lot of that was spent paying down debt. 

The money left isn't enough to save all jobs. Sky is talking to some staff about its future, post-negotiations.

Contact Newshub with your story tips: