×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sky Outlines Plans for ‘Cinematic’ Original Content on a Par With HBO, Showtime

Comcast-backed Sky has outlined plans for expanded and “cinematic” original content to rival U.S. networks HBO and Showtime. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Thursday, Sky managing director of content Zai Bennett explained some of the ways the pay-TV giant plans to invest in original content after its programming budget was recently doubled by new owner Comcast.

Bennett said there would be a steady ramp-up in spending and output over the next five years, with the “vast amount” of the money being devoted to channels Sky One and Sky Atlantic. Comcast announced in June that Sky’s original programming budget would increase from approximately £500 million ($612 million) to £1 billion ($1.2 billion) in five years.

Sky Atlantic, which is home to shows such as “Chernobyl,” co-produced by HBO and Sky, is purely for “chewy, grown-up, immersive, challenging drama that stands shoulder to shoulder with HBO and Showtime around the world,” said Bennett.

Sky One, meanwhile, is “a bit more fun and entertaining” and has taken a “step up” in recent years with shows such as “Bulletproof” and “A Discovery of Witches,” as well as entertainment and comedy output.

He said a common theme for all the shows on the channels is that “production values are cinematic across the board.”

Bennett said Sky had an “amazing, fruitful relationship” with new owner Comcast, explaining that it had brought “surety and long-term focus” to Sky. “We are now very much looking at the long term, what can we do, where things are working, where we can accentuate them.”

He said that while Sky is developing some projects with NBC, Comcast treats Sky as a separate business with its own business culture. “They bought Sky because it is working,” Bennett said. “And they want it to keep it working and for it to get bigger.”

Bennett urged producers to bring ideas early to Sky so that the broadcaster could develop projects with them from the start, and make them “bespoke” for Sky. He added that “specificity” is really important, citing drama hit “Chernobyl.” “By being really specific, you can make a show that is incredibly local and successful for the U.K. but that will also travel.”

Bennett’s comments come a day after Sky said it was adding two new channels to its entertainment portfolio, Sky Crime and Sky Comedy. Sky Crime launches in October, and will air “premium U.S. true crime” shows from U.S. pay TV networks Oxygen and HBO. The channel’s key shows include “I Love You, Now Die” and “The Disappearance of Susan Cox Powell.”

Sky Comedy will launch in February 2020, and air scripted U.S. comedy from HBO, NBC and Showtime, including “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Mrs Fletcher,” “A.P. Bio,” and Dwayne Johnson-vehicle “Ballers.”

Sky also announced at Edinburgh the commission of new original drama “I Hate Suzie,” about a star on the wane who has her life upended when her phone is hacked and a photo of her in a compromising situation emerges. The eight-part series stars Billie Piper, who is best known for her appearances in “Doctor Who” and “Collateral,” and is produced by Bad Wolf. Sky Vision will handle international distribution.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • David Goodman

    WGA West's David Goodman on Agency Strategy: 'We'll Start Meeting as Soon as Possible'

    David Goodman, who was resoundingly re-elected president of the Writers Guild of America West on Monday, said the guild plans to meet with several talent agencies soon in an effort to ease the impasse over packaging fees and affiliated production. “Many agencies had indicated that they wanted to wait to see the results of the [...]

  • THE TITAN GAMES -- "The Titan

    'Titan Games' Renewed for Season 2 at NBC

    NBC has renewed the Dwayne Johnson-hosted competition series “The Titan Games” for a second season. The series features men and women battling opponents in head-to-head physical challenges designed by Johnson. Winners advance to Mt. Olympus, a test of speed, strength, agility and endurance. “When we launched ‘The Titan Games,’ we set out to create an [...]

  • David Goodman

    David Goodman Re-Elected President of Writers Guild of America West

    David Goodman has been convincingly re-elected to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America West, beating Phyllis Nagy in a bitter contest that became a referendum on the guild’s ongoing battle with talent agents. Goodman received 4,395 votes to Nagy’s 1,282 in an election that yielded record turnout among the WGA [...]

  • first wives club BET

    TV Review: 'The First Wives Club' on BET Plus

    Launching a series based on a beloved property is harder than it seems. On the one hand, you get the immediate boost of name recognition to lure in preexisting fans. On the other, straying too far from the plot and/or spirit of the original risks sparking their righteous wrath. It’s a tricky balance to strike, [...]

  • Thomas Golubic8th Annual Guild of Music

    Guild of Music Supervisors President: 'The Economics of the Job Don't Work Anymore'

    The Guild of Music Supervisors (GMS) hosted its 5th annual “State of Music in Media” conference on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Los Angeles Film School. Featuring a wide array of panel discussions on all manner of issues related to music in film, television and advertising, the confab drew top composers, music supervisors, licensing and [...]

  • Christopher Eccleston Anorexia

    Christopher Eccleston Reveals He Was 'Very Ill' With Anorexia While Filming 'Doctor Who'

    “Doctor Who” actor Christopher Eccleston has opened up about his anorexia, body dysmorphia and suicidal thoughts. Eccleston, who played the ninth incarnation of the Doctor, made the revelations in his forthcoming autobiography “I Love the Bones of You: My Father and the Making of Me.” “Many times I’ve wanted to reveal that I’m a lifelong [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content