Sky is attempting to fend off competition from Amazon, Netflix and rival broadcasters with a slate of original offerings that include “Gangs of London” with HBO, one-off dramas about Salvador Dali and David Bowie, and a new unscripted show in which contestants go on a treasure hunt and then hide from people sent to track them.
The pay-TV operator has upped its spending in originals by 25% this year, and Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch tells Variety that there will be a similar increase in 2018. The slate of 50 originals for next year includes 24 returning series, including “Riviera 2” and comedy drama “Bounty Hunters.” It also spans previously announced new dramas “Melrose,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and “In the Long Run,” with Idris Elba.
“Gangs of London” will follow groups of violent criminals battling for control of the British capital’s underworld. Gareth Evans, director of “The Raid” movie franchise, will executive produce the series, which will bow on Sky in 2019. Pulse Films and Sister Pictures are producing, and HBO’s Cinemax will carry it in the U.S. The show is part of Sky and HBO’s $250 million co-production deal, whose first project, nuclear disaster series “Chernobyl,” is also produced by Sister Pictures, along with The Mighty Mint.
Anthology series “Urban Myths” for Sky Arts will recount seminal moments in the world of music, art, and culture. “Urban Myths: When Bowie Met Bolan” has Luke Treadaway as a young David Bowie and Jack Whitehall as a young Marc Bolan meeting in London’s Denmark Street before they achieved stardom. All3Media’s Lion TV is producing.
Another episode, “Urban Myths: The Dali and the Cooper,” produced by Me & You, will tell the true story of Alice Cooper, played by Noel Fielding, attending a dinner party thrown by Salvador Dali, played by David Suchet. A hip-hop installment, “Urban Myths: Public Enemy (feat. Kev Wells),” will recall the time that the band members had to rely on passersby to get to a gig after their tour bus left without them. Paterson Joseph stars as Chuck D and Abdul Salis as Flavor Flav. U.K. indie A Happy Tramp is making the show.
Factual programming includes Somethin’ Else-produced “Ronnie Wood: Artist in Residence” in which the Rolling Stone travels to various high-profile British institutions, including the Royal Opera House to the Royal Albert Hall.
The unscripted highlight is “Loot,” from Shine TV. It has contestants embark on a treasure hunt and then seek to evade capture by a crack team sent to find them.
“There’s never been a more competitive time to be in the content business, and I’m incredibly excited by the scale, quality and authenticity of the U.K. TV industry right now,” said Gary Davey, Sky’s managing director of content. “Next year will see over 50 Sky Original Productions on air and over 20 of these will be returners – a testament to the popularity of our shows.”