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Industry / Market - UK

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

The UK’s Sky TV to ramp up investment in feature films

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The UK’s largest pay-TV broadcaster will launch 30 new movies this year under the Sky Originals banner, as it looks to compete with streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon

The UK’s Sky TV to ramp up investment in feature films
Henry Lawfull in one of the Sky Original films, A Boy Called Christmas

As more and more legacy media outlets attempt to get into the streaming game, the UK’s broadcasting giant Sky TV is the latest to expand its commitment to this model. It will launch 30 new Sky Original feature films this year, increasing to one a week from 2022 as it looks to become “the best home cinema service in the world”.

Together with the films, a slate of serial TV dramas, documentaries, comedy and entertainment will make up more than 125 Sky Originals, which is more than double its original content produced in 2020. Two original films will launch each month, a combination of acquisitions like Blithe Spirit, and works commissioned and financed by Sky itself. The recently announced Save the Cinema, starring Samantha Morton, Jonathan Pryce and Tom Felton, is just one of these, focusing on the timely subject matter of a 1990s campaign to save a beloved local cinema in rural Wales.

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Other high-profile acquisitions include The United States vs. Billie Holiday, directed by Lee Daniels; A Boy Called Christmas, adapted from the best-selling children’s book; and the crime-comedy The Comeback Trail, with Robert De Niro.

“Our upcoming slate is more acquisition-led, but over time, that will change and become commissioning- and co-production-led,” said Zai Bennett, managing director of content for Sky UK & Ireland. “At a certain budget level, we will be the majority financier, taking world rights and exploiting them with the producers once it has been made. On others, at the $15 million or $20 million level, they were more likely to be co-productions.”

Akin to Netflix and Disney+, Bennett confirmed that all Sky Original films would be released in the UK on the platform first, or day-and-date with cinemas: “We need to have something for Sky Cinema subscribers that’s exclusive; it’s as simple as that.”

A topical TV original for the company will be Michael Winterbottom’s This Sceptered Isle, following Kenneth Branagh as UK prime minister Boris Johnson in his travails handling the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be produced by Fremantle, Passenger and Winterbottom’s own Revolution Films, and will debut in autumn 2022.

Sky is one of Europe’s largest media companies by revenue, comprising its operations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Prior to November 2018, Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owned the largest controlling stake. It is now a subsidiary of US media and telecoms conglomerate Comcast, the owner of major Hollywood studio Universal.

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