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Sky Earnings Rise in Last Half of 2017, Moves Into Original Films in U.K.

Sky saw a 5% year-on-year increase in revenue in the second half of 2017 and a 24% hike in operating profit as the European satcaster continues its aggressive foray into original content, including a new announcement Thursday that it is moving into financing and producing feature films in the U.K.

The new Sky Cinema Original Films will premiere its first offering, animated movie “Monster Family,” day and date in theaters and through its paybox in Britain in March. That will be followed by action flick “The Hurricane Heist,” directed by Rob Cohen, in April.

The pan-European broadcasting giant also said Thursday that it had added about 365,000 subscribers for a total of 22.9 million across Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria. Sky has launched streaming services in other countries, such as Spain.

It reported an operating profit of £573 million ($817 million at today’s exchange rate) for the six months ending Dec. 31, 2017. Revenue during the same period was £6.7 billion ($9.6 billion). Operating costs were flat.

Though known for offering live sports and movies, Sky has been making a major push into original content as it faces growing competition from rivals such as BT, Amazon and Netflix, including in its core area of sports coverage. This year’s lineup of shows features the newly launched “Britannia,” a “Game of Thrones”-style series based in ancient Britain under Roman rule, and the upcoming “Das Boot,” a spin-off of the award-winning German film.

The move into original films in the U.K. had been the subject of recent industry rumor. In addition to “Monster Family” and “The Hurricane Heist,” the company said that sci-fi crime thriller “Anon” and a British production titled “Final Score” would be released later this year. All the films will be made available in theaters and to Sky subscribers at home on the same day.

Sky’s Italian arm has already been involved in feature films for a year, having banded together with five prominent Italian production companies to launch a new distribution company, Vision Distribution. Vision released its first title, “Monolith,” last summer and acquired Italian rights months ago to “Colette,” the Keira Knightley-starrer that just world-premiered at Sundance.

“Sky’s original content strategy has already been successful across eight genres of television,” said Ian Lewis, group director of Sky Cinema. “Now we’re taking it to film to give our content-hungry customers even more reasons to keep coming back.”

Sky also said it had renewed its deal with Warner Bros. in Britain and Germany to have faster access to the studio’s new titles and to the Harry Potter, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and Lego movie franchises.

“Our focus on high quality, differentiated local programming to complement what we acquire through our partners is working well,” CEO Jeremy Darroch said. “Viewing to Sky channels increased by 6% and, following both critical success and record audiences for Sky Original productions, we will be increasing our investment in original content each and every year.”

The company continues to be in limbo over its proposed takeover by 21st Century Fox. The bid has been a vexed affair, with British regulatory bodies and government officials subjecting it to lengthy review.

Earlier this week, the takeover’s prospects were dealt a blow when the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority provisionally concluded that a Fox-Sky merger would not be in the public interest. The authority said that the deal would concentrate too much power over the media and public opinion in the hands of the Murdoch family.

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