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Judge Sky Atlantic on buzz not ratings, says Sky boss Mike Darcey

BSkyB says it will judge the success of its HBO-programmed channel Sky Atlantic on the buzz it creates, not its audience numbers. Sky COO said the channel is better defined by the amount of press coverage it generates than by its success in capturing a large audience.

Darcey said he was not concerned about the Sky Atlantic’s overnight ratings in response to a question from TBIvision  sister publication DTVE Daily at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch yesterday. The channel’s flagship show, Martin Scorsese-produced HBO series Boardwalk Empire, attracted 438,000 viewers on its initial outing.

“Overnight ratings are a very free-to-air network way to think about things,” said Darcey. “We will look at success in a different way.” He said that the actual audience for the channel also included time-shifted viewing of programmes on the Sky Plus DVR service.

“I stopped looking at overnights a long time ago,” he said. “As a pay broadcaster more fundamental is that you want people to subscribe to pay TV. Does it provide value to our customers? Is it going to attract new prospects? Is it the sort of brand that will make them reconsider whether they are going to leave or stay.”

He added that publicity around the launch and the amount of visibility it generated for the platform in the run up to the launch was more significant than viewing figures. “Column inches are a better measure of success – if people are seeing it being written about in a positive way,” he said.

Darcey said that the company had pitched Sky Atlantic to rival pay TV operator Virgin Media, but that no agreement was currently in sight. “I’m not inclined to provide it to Virgin Media at a knock-down price,” he said. “We have offered it at a very reasonable price and we explained how we came about that price. I hope they will come back [to us].”