Magazine article Marketing

OPINION: Ball Quits While He's Ahead and Avoids the Difficult Next Million

Magazine article Marketing

OPINION: Ball Quits While He's Ahead and Avoids the Difficult Next Million

Article excerpt

Tony Ball is a very smart guy, and not just for being able to mark the fifth anniversary of SkyDigital this week by announcing that the seven millionth subscriber is now on board.

It is an enormous achievement to shrug aside one of the worst recessions for decades and meet such a demanding target several months ahead of schedule.

It would have seemed fanciful in the days when his predecessor, the ever-enthusiastic Mark Booth, was first extolling the merits of the electronic programme guide and his chunky remote control. Ball should receive all the praise for meeting such a target - although he has already been very well paid for his efforts. The only blot on his copybook was the pounds 1bn loss on the Kirch investment - and he argued against that one.

But the real cleverness is to quit now while he is so emphatically ahead - a freedom and pleasure not available to the likes of Michael Green of Carlton or Charles Allen of Granada. They, alas, are doomed to soldier on.

Ball can now count his millions in his Spanish home, as well as some News Corp consultancy and venture capital work designed to pull in even more money. The big thing he will not be responsible for is setting and achieving the next set of BSkyB targets. They will be the really tough ones to meet.

We are not quite there yet, but somewhere down the line the satellite group will approach a plateau and that will almost certainly come in the next three years.

The speed with which Freeview has reached two million customers, albeit with the help of free offers and the legacy of ITV Digital boxes, is the clearest pointer to the level of that difficulty. …

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