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European Pay TV Giant Sky to Double Investment in Non-Sport Content in Five Years

LONDON — European pay TV giant Sky will double its investment in non-sport content over the next five years, Gary Davey, the company’s managing director of content, said Thursday.

Davey, who launched Sky 27 years ago when he was managing director, said the company is set to spend 5 billion GBP ($7.25 billion) this year on content, but wouldn’t break it down into sports and entertainment.

He said that whenever any Sky exec talks about the business, there are three key words they always use — content, innovation and service — and content was the most important.

“An important part of my job going forward is to make entertainment a primary reason to get Sky,” he told the audience of senior television executives at the Royal Television Society event in London.

Sky is “on a journey” with its entertainment and drama programming, he said. “I’m pretty happy where we are, but we have a long way to go.”

Non-sport content was a strategic priority for the company now.

“With all due respect, we are not doing it to keep the production community happy. It’s that we know that this is a business, and we really think through very carefully what’s going to drive customer engagement,” he said. “If we get our storytelling in entertainment right, it is just as engaging as football.”

Drama is a central plank of Sky’s drive into original content, with five big-budget drama series returning this year.

Since the merger of the Sky companies in the U.K., Germany and Italy, content can be originated in any of those three territories. “The way we are managing it is we want the creative to come from the bottom up,” he said. “We want to hear about great ideas and, quite frankly, I don’t care whether they come from Milan, Munich or anywhere.”

“Each of the communities is developing projects, bringing them up and when we see a big opportunity to develop on scale we jump on it,” he said.

An example of that is Paolo Sorrentino’s TV series “The Young Pope,” an idea that started life in Rome. Sorrentino had wanted to go into television, so he brought the project to Sky’s Italian team. Once Sky agreed to back the project, Jude Law and Diane Keaton were attached to star, and HBO and France’s Canal Plus boarded as co-production partners.

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