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Sky’s Move Into Original Film in the U.K. May Expand to Other Markets

European broadcaster Sky, fresh from announcing a push into U.K. movies Thursday, is already in talks to add projects to its budding film slate and assessing a similar move in Germany, the pay-TV giant’s content chief Gary Davey tells Variety. The impetus for the move in Britain is a desire to crunch the release window and provide day-and-date features, something Davey said Sky subscribers are demanding.

“We know that’s what our customers want,” he said. “The hard part was figuring out a model where we can satisfy that customer demand, be true to our own business models for cinema, and have a model that works for the theatrical distribution outlets, and we think we have figured that out.”

Sky already has a series of major studio output deals. But its own films will bow on Sky and in movie theaters day-and-date in the U.K., and launch in more traditional theatrical windows internationally. Sky has partnered with Altitude for the British cinema releases.

The four Sky Cinema Original Films announced Thursday start with animated comedy “Monster Family,” which comes out in March, and is produced by Timeless Films, Ambient Entertainment and United Entertainment. The other three are action picture “The Hurricane Heist,” sci-fi thriller “Anon,” and soccer movie “Final Score.” The slate is restricted to Sky’s U.K. customers, although the broadcaster has already broadened into film distribution in Italy.

Sky also broadcasts in Germany and offers a streaming service in Spain. There are plans afoot to look at original films in the other markets. “Our territories are all at a different stage of development in terms of original content,” Davey said. “Germany is behind Italy and the U.K., but it’s a logical journey.”

We’re assessing the suitability of titles based on scripts… we have got a lot we’re in negotiation for

There are already plans to add to the newly unveiled British slate if the film initiative works. “If we want to ramp it up we certainly can do that,” Davey said. “We’re confident in the model. The question is at what level are we going to go to…

“We know the kind of films we are looking for, and in order to secure a position in these titles we have to be in there negotiating at script stage,” Davey added. “We’re assessing the suitability of titles based on scripts. We have got a lot we’re in negotiation for.”

The sweet spot financially is films in the medium budget category. “Generally it is that mid-budget area that has suffered in the last four or five years as budgets have been shifted across to the big franchises, but we love that middle range because that’s where the rom-coms live, and that’s where some of the family movies live,” Davey said. “There are some wonderful movies in that range.”

Film was always an ambition, according to the Sky content boss, but the company needed to prove its mettle in original TV first. On TV it has upwards of 50 new and returning original series, including “Britannia” and “Riviera.” Two more, “Curfew”  and “Catherine the Great,” were announced Thursday. In moving into features, Sky has just filled in the next piece of the content puzzle.

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