In its heyday, Sky had a series of moats around it that made it seem impregnable.
It had a lock on A-list sports rights, top entertainment tied up, and the only substantial outside broadcasting services unit - meaning it was the only broadcaster with enough camera trucks and crews to shoot a high-volume of sports games.
Spark is now laying siege to sports rights, of course, and has already snatched the Rugby World Cup, domestic cricket from next year to 2026, Formula 1 and English Premier League football, while cut-out-the-middleman streaming services like the just-arrived Disney+ and HBO Max (launching May next year) are battering through defences on the entertainment front.
Now, Sky's once-famed outside broadcast (OSB) monopoly is crumbling too.
An angry staffer forwarded the Herald an inhouse email on Friday in which Sky's head of production told staff a deal was on the table to sell sky's Outside Broadcasting unit (bought for $35 million in 2010 in what was then seen as a masterstroke).
Sky confirmed in an NZX notice on Monday that it was "at the early stages of assessing its options, including inviting NEP to assess the OSB assets".
Later, a Sky spokeswoman told the Herald that, "There are 33 talented staff at OSB, and we're at the very early stages of assessing the options and it's too soon to know or comment on the impacts of different scenarios.
The spokeswoman said possible OSB sale was separate to a restructure associated with Sky's new emphasis on streaming, which could affect up to 250 role s (of 1137 full-timers plus 500 contractors).
As Disney+ launches in NZ, analysts sharply divided over Sky's future
"The question being asked is whether Sky needs to use its own capital to deliver the Outside Broadcast aspects," Sky said in its NZX statement.
That's a good question to ask at this juncture. The answer is "no."
For years, Sky enjoyed a good thing with its near-monopoly on outside broadcast infrastructure, which meant anyone who attempted to take major sports rights would fall at the first hurdle with their inability to shoot games.
Things changed when US-based multinational outside broadcast giant NEP set up shop in New Zealand in June 2018, talking up the looming launch of Spark Sport. And Spark has now proven its mettle by putting serious resources into buying rights for its new streaming service, with head Jeff Latch saying that local production will be to 2020 what the Rugby World Cup was to 2019 in terms of focus.
With NEP in town and Spark and a newly interested in sport TVNZ as anchor customers, Sky's monopoly rationale for owning an OSB unit was gone. It must now, however, weigh whether it wants NEP to be the only game in town.
But given Sky's declining profit and need to concentrate its financial firepower on renewing key sports rights, new CEO Martin Stewart could well decide the moment has come to give OSB the flick.
Jarden analyst Arie Dekker said Sky was right to put OSB on the block.
"Clearly, over time, Sky is looking to be a less capital intensive business and it is logical as part of this review that it looks at outside broadcasting" which required substantial capital investment and where technology was changing rapidly, Dekker said.
"Outside broadcasting is an area where technology is evolving rapidly.
"Global players like NEP likely have better visibility globally on how technology is evolving and may be better placed to take on the capital investment risk on what could be increasingly short life assets."
Sky shares were recently trading at 83c, close to their all-time low.
However, a majority of analysts see the pay-TV broadcaster rebounding, if perhaps only modestly, from its trough and has an "out-perform" rating on the stock.
The most bullish analyst, Fat Prophets' Greg Smith sees Sky at $2.00 by the end of 2020, even after Sky recently lowered its earnings and revenue forecasts. Smith notes that even with its lowered targets, the broadcaster is still profitable and the most gloomy developments are already priced-in - and then some.
The most bearish, Forsyth Barr's Matt Henry, cut Sky to underperform with an 80c target after the revised guidance issued earlier this month.
In the middle, UBS's Phil Campbell retained his buy rating post-update, but cut his 12-month target from $1.55 to $1.40.