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Sky Spreads its Bet in Online Futures With FubuTV and iFlix
The broadcaster is preparing for a time beyond traditional TV viewing by making investments in sports and entertainment streamers around the globe.

British-based European satellite broadcaster Sky has added to its portfolio of online streaming ventures with fresh investments in U.S. online sports pay service FuboTV and in Asian OTT content provider iFlix.

The moves are part of the pan-European broadcaster's ongoing programme of investing in innovative startups directed at safeguarding its future as viewers shift from traditional TV consumption.

Having built its subscriptions business in the U.K. on live sports content, the broadcaster is not unnaturally focusing many of its investments at sports streamers.

FuboTV launched in January 2015, and has attracted 400,000 subscribers paying $10 a month for a bundle of live football match sports and magazine-style content. According to the company, it is the second-largest aggregator and distributor of OTT sports content and the fastest-growing "virtual payTV operator" in the U.S.

Distribution deals with Univision, beIN Sports, GolTV, and Benfica TV mean FuboTV delivers 30 to 40 live football games a week over the Akamai CDN, including MLS and Spanish La Liga matches. Over a quarter of subscribers are Latin American. The service is available on the web and Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon, iOS, and Android devices.

Sky's stake was matched by 21st Century Fox, which owns 39 percent of Sky. The $15 million total funding round included additional backers such as former NBA commissioner David Stern. Univision Communications invested previously, and FuboTV received seed investments from Anthony Vinciquerra, former CEO of Fox Networks Group, and Blake Krikorian, co-founder of Sling Media.

Neither Sky nor Fox are supplying the service with content, though both now take a seat on the board.

"We’re excited to be investing in FuboTV, at a time when our customers are looking to consume more and more content, whenever and wherever they are," said Emma Lloyd, director of corporate development and strategic investments at Sky.

This news follows recent Sky investments in U.K.-based mobile fan engagement and sports marketing company InCrowd Sports (for €396,000); U.S. sports streamer Whistle Sports ($7 million) and DataXu, a Boston-based provider of programmatic advertising analytics software ($10 million). In December, Sky paid $300,000 for a stake in LA-based online TV content publisher TV4 Entertainment.

Earlier this week Sky paid $45 million for a share of iFlix, which has been dubbed an Asian rival to Netflix. The service provides unlimited access to a library of Hollywood titles and Asian regional and local movies and TV shows

Although it operates in the U.K., Italy, and Germany, this is Sky's first investment in the APAC region.

iFlix was founded less than year ago, and has 1 million subscribers in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. It plans to extend its service to new Asian markets in the coming months.

“iFlix has quickly established itself as southeast Asia’s most exciting and fastest-growing streaming TV service,” said Sky Group CFO Andrew Griffith. “There are lots of opportunities for Sky and iFlix to work together and share expertise as both companies continue to expand.”

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