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Sky Deutschland CEO Schmidt replaced by ex-Comcast executive Raj

Carsten Schmidt (L) at preview of TNT Series Original "4 Blocks" in Munich (Photo by Marc Mueller/Getty Images for Turner)

Carsten Schmidt, chief executive of Sky Deutschland, is to leave his position at the end of this year and will be replaced by a Devesh Raj, a former executive at Comcast, the US-based media giant that took over the German pay-TV broadcaster in 2018.

Schmidt (pictured, left) has been with Sky for more than two decades and previously led the broadcaster’s sports department. Raj, currently the broadcaster’s chief operating officer, Continental Europe and previously Comcast-NBCUniversal’s head of corporate strategy and financial planning, will take over at the start of 2020.

Both Schmidt and Sky stressed today that the decision to step down was his own.

The 56-year-old Schmidt will remain a “senior advisor” to the Sky Deutschland board throughout next year, the broadcaster said.

Schmidt is to work “very closely” with Raj in the coming months in order to “ensure the optimal transition”.

The timing of Schmidt’s exit will surprise some observers given the invitation to tender for domestic broadcast rights to German football’s Bundesliga (from 2021-22 onwards) is expected to be launched towards the start of 2020.

Schmidt, a key figure in previous Bundesliga rights auctions, said that his support for Raj in the coming months will “involve the upcoming Bundesliga rights tender in particular”. Sky pays an average of €876m ($955.2m) per season for the bulk of live matches from 2017-18 to 2020-21 to the top-tier 1. Bundesliga and all games from the second-tier 2. Bundesliga.

News of Schmidt’s impending departure also comes with the bid deadline on the horizon for Uefa club rights in German-speaking countries.

Raj joined Sky in the summer and has also assumed the position of interim chief commercial officer in the wake of incumbent Marcello Maggioni. The Italian’s exit has been among a string of departures that have followed Comcast’s takeover. These have also included Roman Steuer (sporting director) Paul Sexton-Chadwick (senior vice-president of OTT service Sky Ticket), Thomas Deissenberger (chief executive of advertising arm Sky Media) and Ralph Fürther (head of communications).

The exodus continued at the start of November as David Morgenbesser, director of sports rights and commercialisation, took up a role at Servus TV, the Red Bull-owned free-to-air broadcaster in Austria, as head of sports rights and content distribution.

Before joining Comcast NBCUniversal in 2014, Raj spent 14 years at Boston Consulting Group, leading the management consultancy’s technology, media and telecoms practice in North America.

As was the case with Schmidt, Raj will report to Andrea Zappia, Sky’s chief executive, Continental Europe.

Schmidt became chief executive of Sky Deutschland in June 2015, replacing American Brian Sullivan. From 2006 to 2015, he held the role of chief officer sports, advertising sales and internet. He was also managing director of programming at Sky’s Austrian arm.

Schmidt joined Sky Deutschland (then Premiere) in 1999 as head of sport, leaving his position as managing director at German sports production company Wige Media.

Sky said today that he had been “instrumental in shaping the successful development of the company”, pointing to the successful launch of sports news channel Sky Sport News HD and the “introduction of innovative products” like Sky Q.

Zappia remarked: “I would like to personally thank Carsten. With strong leadership and great dedication, he has played a significant role in Sky’s growth and success over the last two decades. With over five million customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and a powerful team, the company is ready to master the challenges ahead.”