Articles Sky Studios

Sky doubles

by Andrea Fornasiero | 10.07.2019

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It was to be expected, actually it was inevitable: Sky has announced a new British production hub and is planning to double the budget dedicated to production over five years, which will increase from half a million to a million pounds (1.3 million dollars).

The mission of the new Sky Studios is the production of original content – which we guess to be mainly series, but not only – for Sky channels throughout Europe but also for the cable and broadcast divisions of NBC and Universal Pictures. These, moreover, fall under the Comcast group, the great American telecommunication company that last year acquired the Murdoch-owned share of Sky and eventually the rest of the company.
Sky Studios will be headed by Gary Davey, who has been working with the group for years: he participated in the launch of Cielo in Italy, then moved to Sky Deutschland as Executive Vice President Programming and then became Managing Director, Content of Sky Company, adding to his responsibilities in Germany the UK and Ireland channels contents (with the exception of sport). In his own words, “This new exciting venture comes at a perfect time to meet our customers’ growing demand for content. We are looking forward to work with the entire creative community – from single authors to major independent producers – in order to create further original content.”
More interesting, however, is Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch’s statement, “This is a transformative development for us. Sky Studios will guide our vision of becoming the leading European content development and production force. Our ambition is to make Sky Studios famous for the quality of its productions and a venue where the best European creatives can work at their best. Being part of Comcast allows us to increase our investments and maximize the advantages and levers between Sky group and our partner NBCUniversal.”
The declaration of intent is clear: to develop quality content, a “boutique” catalog that implicitly faces the sooner or later inevitable loss of HBO titles and maybe even of other large American catalogues like Showtime’s. This is a challenge that Netflix has been facing for a couple of years now with an ever-increasing (and perhaps unsustainable) rate of production aimed at creating a self-sufficient library once shorn of the titles of Warner and Disney, which, now allies, will soon become direct competitors with their looming platforms.
It is not clear how much the new Sky Studios will centralize Sky productions, nor is it known for the moment whether the increase in investments will be replicated in Italy and Germany (although probable and hoped-for), but the idea certainly follows the wake of Sky’s production development that after a shy and not necessarily assertive beginning (The Tunnel, Fortitude, Riviera, Britannia) has strung together at least two excellent critics and audience successes like Patrick Melrose and Chernobyl. The former was a Showtime co-production while the latter was co-produced with HBO, just as Sky Studios’ first announced title, The Third Day. Planned for 2020, this very promising project brings together the creative team of Utopia, to be written by Dennis Kelly and directed by Marc Munden (most probably joined by the inseparable Cristobal Tapia de Veer for music, and Ole Bratt Birkeland for cinematography).
The cast features Jude Law as Sam, drawn to an island on the English coast where the inhabitants behave in a mysterious way and whose rituals overwhelm him. A series between reality and fantasy, different from other announced Sky productions or HBO co-productions mainly driven on realism, starting from the period drama with Helen Mirren Catherine the Great, directed by one of The Crown directors, Philip Martin, and written by Nigel Williams, fresh from an international co-production, The Name of the Rose. Sky and the HBO group, through cable channel Cinemax, will also join forces for Gangs of London, a sort of English response to Gomorrah on gang wars in modern-day London, conceived and largely directed by Gareth Evans, a Welsh cult director, well-known for his action and crime movies.
Italians are well aware that Sky Italy is also very active in productions, as for its highlight Gomorrah, and the final season of the 1992-94 trilogy, as well as the upcoming ZeroZeroZero by Stefano Sollima, The New Pope by Paolo Sorrentino and Anna by Niccolò Ammaniti (while The Miracle’s future is still unknown). Neither has Sky Germany kept behind, considering its valuable productions in recent years, such as Das Boot and above all Babylon Berlin. Adding up all the titles produced in Italy, Germany and England, Sky’s European catalogue is stronger than that of Netflix, and even of Amazon and HBO Europe. However, without adequate content support from NBCUniversal, the competition with other giants of the western entertainment, which seem to be far more aggressive at least in a quantitative sense, will not be easy.