The head of Sky News is set to step down after 16 years on the job as the outlet faces long-term challenges to adapt to a post-TV future.
John Ryley has been in charge of Sky News since 2006, taking over at a time when the outlet was almost entirely focused on producing its flagship live TV channel. Under his leadership, Sky News has transformed into a multimedia operation with a large online audience, although it continues to devote a substantial part of its budget to its traditional broadcast.
Sky News sources have told the Guardian that Ryley’s departure is expected to be announced to staff during a call on Monday. Although details are yet to be confirmed, his departure is expected to be announced alongside new hires for Sky News’ original data, podcasts and journalism teams. However, investments in some new studios will also be suspended.
Ryley has largely been a popular figure on the Sky News desk. He has risen to the challenges of running a news outlet for nearly two decades at a time when trust in some parts of the media has crumbled, winning numerous journalism awards in the process.
In recent years, he has written about his belief that television news should increasingly feature reporters offering expert analysis and context, rather than relying on a handful of patrician presenters: reporters on the ground, providing the public with the high-fiber information they demand.
Taken together, the announcements suggest Sky bosses are preparing for a future where the broadcaster is less at the center of news operations. Although 10.2 million Britons watched the Sky News TV channel last month, viewership figures for individual shows may be below 100,000 viewers, and the channel is increasingly turning to services such as TikTok to reach the youngest. Its evening shows are often beaten in the ratings by highly opinionated content on the right-wing GB News channel, although it has been largely indifferent to the other upstart UK news channel, talkTV.
Financial support from Sky News is tied to company policy. The channel was originally founded in 1989 by Rupert Murdoch and for many years was considered a loss-making product that gave the broadcaster credibility with politicians and other journalists. When Murdoch sold Sky in 2018 to US media giant Comcast, the new owners pledged to keep Sky News funded for a decade.
Although the end of this agreement is still a long way off, decisions will have to be made about the long-term future of the outlets – and the funding model – in the years to come. Comcast is believed to be looking at ways to more tightly integrate Sky News with its US-based NBC News operation, potentially including the increased sharing of reporting resources.
The wider Sky business has had a tough few months, with revenues falling as consumers and advertisers cut spending in the face of tough economic conditions. The company is already looking beyond its satellite dish product and towards a future where its subscription television product is delivered over the Internet.