BSkyB beefs up Sky 1 lineup

Pay TV company acquires four U.S. series

Sky 1, the flagship entertainment web of News Corp.’s satcaster BSkyB, has added another four high-profile U.S. shows to an already hefty portfolio of acquired fare.

They are “Raising Hope,” from Amigos de Garcia Prods., a laffer charting the “chaos an unexpected arrival brings to an already flawed household”; cop show “Ride Along” set in Chicago; sitcom “The Middle” and drama “Lone Stone.”

The shows, all previewed at the L.A. Screenings, follow last week’s announcement that BSkyB had signed a five-year output deal with HBO worth around $240 million.

A BSkyB spokesman declined to comment on speculation that similar deals are being negotiated with AMC, which airs “Mad Men,” and Showtime.

The new U.S. series were announced as Sky 1 revealed an ambitious fall lineup at a talent-studded morning presentation followed by a reception attended by buyers from all the main Hollywood studios.

The paybox, now close to signing up 10 million subscribers, is keen to broaden its appeal beyond sports and movies.

The fall season features more homegrown drama and factual shows starring some of Blighty’s biggest TV names including Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and Victoria Wood.

Sky 1 head Stuart Murphy said, “In just over a year we’ve shifted the budget around to put terrestrial levels of spend behind our commissioned shows … it means a focus on ‘less is more,’ commissioning fewer shows, which allows us to hire the best presenters, actors, writers, production teams and to create shows that have unquestionably high levels of quality.”

Monday’s pact with BBC Worldwide and Impossible Pictures for a $27 million series based on “Sinbad,” the fairy tale 8th century sailor, is further evidence of this (Daily Variety, Aug. 2).BSkyB is likely to win regulatory approval for its recent purchase of Virgin Media’s channels business later this week, which will give Sky another seven webs including Living and Bravo.

Some commentators have suggested that BSkyB might launch a new channel dedicated to high-profile U.S. drama, but this looks to be wide of the mark.

On the contrary, it is believed the satcaster is keen to consolidate the number of channels it offers, thus making it easier for auds to navigate and find their content of choice.

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