Mohamed Hammady: The Future of Collaboration
Q: You’re a 30-year veteran of this industry. How would you describe the industry’s evolution over - say - the last five?
A: We talk about ‘disruption’ a lot in the tech industry, but I genuinely think this phrase is merited in relation to the past five years. We have started to truly realize the potential of a few key emerging technologies - cloud computing, higher internet speeds and data are having a huge impact on the way we think about and use technology.
The Cloud has given us easy access to a stable and scalable infrastructure, which means that we’re able to deliver services and applications much faster to our customers. Higher broadband speeds through increased fiber penetration and 4G and 5G coverage are also opening up the door to improved quality video at home and on the go, as people look to stream more live and on-demand content on the device of their choice.
Finally, being able to process large quantities of data in real-time has led to exciting steps forward in the areas of AI, Machine Learning and personalization. From voice search, content recommendation, targeted ads and even trouble shooting on service calls, having our business grounded in data insights opens up opportunities for making transactions with our customers easier, faster and more relevant.
Q: I know it’s hard to pick favorites, but which product or breakthrough would you say has played the most pivotal role in shaping the direction of Sky’s technology roadmap?
A: Our OTT (Over The Top) platform which we designed and built in-house. Having historically distributed content via satellite, complementing this with a streaming platform represented an important pivot for Sky. We are now proud to lead with one of the largest multi-national, multi-service video platforms in the industry which we have built to serve millions of customers concurrently. Through a single, unified platform, we deliver live sport, entertainment and video-on-demand to connected TV screens, set-top-boxes, smart phones, tablets and game consoles which means our customers can connect to the content they love wherever and whenever they want.
Q: Your team builds the backbone of Sky’s TV, broadband, mobile and digital platforms. Talk about your team and how all that work gets done.
A: We have an enormously talented and hard-working team of several thousand people working across the UK, Germany, Italy and Portugal. It’s very diverse with around 58 languages spoken, which is fantastic as it’s important that our workforce reflects the varied backgrounds, genders and values of our customers.
Our work ranges from designing, building and operating networks, data centers, studios and satellites to our OTT distribution platforms, customer facing Information Systems (CRM, Billing…) and managing our own enterprise systems. Collaboration and partnership are absolutely central to our work as we have stakeholders all over the company – there are few parts of the business that technology doesn’t touch - so building strong relationships is crucial. We also firmly believe in innovation, whilst we’re laser focused on delivering what our customers need today, it’s also important to dream and anticipate what our business and our customers will need in the future.
Q: We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Comcast’s acquisition of Sky. Talk a little about the shared expertise between Sky and Comcast and the transfer and collaboration of technology and talent.
A: I can honestly say that from the very beginning, the relationship with Comcast has been one of collaboration, openness, generosity in sharing information and experiences and an eagerness to find ways to work together.
The most obvious example of this is Peacock, NBCU’s direct to consumer streaming service which will be launched next year. It is based on Sky’s OTT platform but it is a joint team that is carrying forward the work. At the same time we will be leveraging Comcast Cable technology in our Sky Q box and Comcast Cable software in our BB home gateway to be launched in Italy. Similarly, Sky UK will be providing playout capabilities to NBCU Europe, while NBCU Content factory will be in the heart of our planned, modernized Content Supply Chain together with Metadata capabilities from Comcast Cable. All this and more in the space of just a year, so the potential for future synergies are clear to see.
Q: Not limited to technology, what has you most excited about the next five years at Sky?
A: The scale of our ambition which is being supercharged by Comcast. It’s privilege enough to work in a company where entertaining and delighting customers is our core business. Then I look at the success that we have had with creating our own shows like Chernobyl, which recently won 10 Emmy awards, and the incredible investment that is being put into Sky Studios to create more original content and the excitement dials up a good few notches.
There is an unlimited range of opportunities ahead of us in the field of TV but also broadband, mobile and related markets in our territories across Europe. Technology will underpin all of these developments and the central role that we have to play to propel the business forward is extremely motivating.