×
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.

More TV

  • 'The Crown': Josh O'Connor, Erin Doherty

    'The Crown': Josh O'Connor, Erin Doherty on Charles and Anne 'Breaking the Mold'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “The Crown” Season 3 on Netflix. The arrivals Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) midway through “The Crown’s” third season infuse the show with a youthful energy reminiscent of the first two years. But, they also offer a sense of rebelliousness, shaking [...]

  • Mindy Kaling Actors on Actors

    Why Mindy Kaling Turned to Social Media to Find the Lead of Her Netflix Series

    Constance Wu (“Hustlers”) and Mindy Kaling (“Late Night”) explained how the internet helped expand the casting pool for their projects during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” Wu began the interview: “When I did ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and they were looking for actors, it was crazy how many people said, ‘Well, there are [...]

  • SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Harry Styles"

    'Saturday Night Live' Turns the Impeachment Hearings Into a Soap Opera (Watch)

    “Saturday Night Live” kicked off its Nov. 16 episode with a take on the biggest news story of the previous week (and foreseeable future): the impeachment hearings. But another big story of the week, especially in Hollywood, was how NBC’s last remaining daytime drama, “Days of our Lives,” had let its actors out of their [...]

  • Andy Cohen attends BravoCon's "Watch What

    'The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City' to Debut in 2020

    Bravo announced Saturday during its first annual BravoCon that a tenth “Real Housewives” series, “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” will debut in 2020. Bravo host and “Real Housewives” executive producer Andy Cohen made the announcement during a panel titled “Ask Andy” at the NYC convention. “We’ve always tried to choose a city that [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content