Sky Deutschland AG, branded as Sky, is a German media company which operates a Direct Broadcast Satellite Pay TV platform in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (through Teleclub) offering a collection of basic and premium digital subscription television channels of different categories via Satellite and Cable Television.
It was launched in 1991 as Premiere. On 4 July 2009, the service and its channels were re-branded as “Sky”, resembling Sky in the UK & Ireland and Sky Italia in Italy.
News Corporation owns 54.5% of Sky Deutschland; the remaining shares are owned by diverse shareholders.
The channel originally started off as a single analogue channel on the Astra 1A satellite, showing films dubbed into German as well as in original audio, live football matches from the German Bundesliga and Austrian Bundesliga (and at one time the UEFA Cup), as well as documentaries, TV series and in the mid-1990s, late-night erotic films. After the coming of the digital age, the service has since consisted of many channels with many new ones added over the years.
The service owns 100 percent of its subsidiary Sky Deutschland Fernsehen GmbH & Co. KG (formerly Premiere Fernsehen GmbH & Co. KG).
Sky Deutschland topped 3m subscribers by the end of 2011, having reached the number 3,012,000.
The German Sky has its origin in the analogue premium channel “Premiere”. It was owned by Kirch Group, Bertelsmann and Canal+ and started broadcasting in 1991.
In 1996, Kirch Media launched a digital satellite platform called DF1 which offered several different channels, including premium movie and sports channels.
Premiere started broadcasting three digital channels in 1997, one channel mirroring the analogue channel and two showing the same content at different times.
Premiere and DF1 merged to form “Premiere World” on 1 October 1999. Many of the channels offered on DF1 were carried over to Premiere World, others were rebranded or closed.
In 2002, the service became known as simply “Premiere”. Many of the channels were rebranded and the package structure was overhauled at the same time. At the same time, KirchGroup filed for bankruptcy. In 2003, investment group Permira stepped in and took control of Premiere.
Exclusivity was for a long time a major selling point for Premiere, and most of its channels were only available through the Premiere platform. This changed in September 2007, when Premiere launched “Premiere Star”, a new satellite package made up of channels that weren’t exclusive to Premiere. The new package Sky Welt/Extra. The package included TNT Serie, TNT Film, Sat.1 emotions, Kabel eins Classics, AXN, Kinowelt.TV, RTL Living RTL Crime, FOX, Syfy Universal, Animax, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, ESPN America, Eurosport HD, Eurosport 2, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, MTV Germany, MTV Live HD and Nicktoons.
On 4 July 2009, Premiere was rebranded to become Sky Deutschland. In conjunction with the relaunch, many channels would disappear from the platform, many would switch packages, many were renamed and several new channels were added. The rebrand resulted a return of News Corporation’s Sky brand in Germany since the encryption of the Sky Channel (now Sky1) in 1993, apart from availability of Sky News.
An inside account of the rise of Premiere, DF1, Premiere World and then Sky Deutschland to become a major satellite TV provider in Europe is given in the book, High Above, which tells the story of the foundation and development of the leading European satellite operator, SES.