ROME — Rupert Murdoch’s pan-European Sky paybox is establishing a dedicated Sky Arts Production Hub in Milan to increase commissioning of arts programming available for its 21 million subscribers across Europe, in a move bound to have a major impact on European arts content creators and producers, and also for discerning TV audiences.
Concurrently the Sky Arts in the U.K. and Ireland will undergo a major revamp, offering customers an on-demand catalog of arts programming with over 1,000 hours of content available at launch including programs commissioned and acquired exclusively for on demand viewing.
Also in these territories the Sky Arts 1 and Sky Arts 2 channels are being merged to create a single arts superchannel with a 10% increase in programming investment.
The new English-language Sky Arts channel will launch on June 9.
The Milan-based Sky Arts Production Hub will entail a Euros 18 million ($19.5 million) investment over three years. It will focus on producing pan-European events and a broad slate of arts programming for customers across all Sky territories — which are U.K., Ireland, Italy, and Germany — in addition to locally commissioned content.
While that may not seem like such a huge sum, it puts Sky in the same league as publicly funded Franco-German TV channel Arte, which up until now dominated in this field.
Sky is now a potential production partner for the large number of European indies who make arts docus and other arts content, which is clearly pulling greater ratings these days, especially on pay TV.
As its inaugural pan-European arts event, Sky will launch a Sky Arts Photographer of the Year competition in 2016, which will seek to crown the best amateur photographer in Europe, spanning all forms of the medium.
The call for entries for this competition will be announced later this year.
“Today’s announcement represents a major new commitment which will bring customers high-quality and distinctive content covering the full breadth of the arts. It builds on Sky’s position as Europe’s leading entertainment company and underlines our ambition to invest at scale in even more of our own original content,” enthused Jeremy Darroch, Sky group chief executive, in a statement.
Darroch also noted that “bringing the three Sky businesses together has opened up the opportunity to create new and exciting content on a greater scale.”
The choice of Milan as Sky Arts Production hub reps a welcome boost for the Italian industry, and also for Sky Italia, where the Sky Arte channel has been producing great content, so far on a shoestring budget.
“We are really proud that Sky has chosen Italy for its Sky Arts Production Hub,” said Sky Italian content chief Andrea Scrosati.
“First and foremost it stands as testimony to the extraordinary talent that our country is able to offer in this sector. It’s also a great opportunity for our market to further develop its professionalism, competence and passion when it comes to producing cultural content.”
The Sky Arts Production Hub clearly has the potential to contribute to the growth of both the Italian and European culture industries.