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April 4, 2012updated 22 Aug 2016 12:45pm

BSkyB boosting British content production; will help battle new media rivals

BSkyB has announced that it is boosting its production of original British content by 50% over three years, which will help it battle its 'new media' rivals.

By Allan Swann

The company wants to spend £600m by 2014 to develop a series of feature-length British films for television, which will help boost the company from being a passive media distributor to active content producer.

It has already seen some successes with the high profile Treasure Island at Christmas, which drew top shelf talent such as Eddie Izzard and Elijah Wood.

Sky wants to produce new films for family audiences on Sky Movies, and new documentary films on Sky Atlantic. Both will be available exclusively for Sky customers in 2013. Green-lit features will have budgets of around £5 million and will receive their premieres on Sky Movies from 2013.

The point is to give the business a key point of difference to emerging new media rivals, such as Netflix and Amazon’s LoveFilm, online video on demand services that compete not just with Sky’s core business, but its new media offerings such as its Sky Anytime+ online video service, and its new internet TV offering NOW TV.

The huge uptake of BBC’s iPlayer hasn’t helped, and Sky recently announced it has buried the hatchet with the public broadcaster and has now made the service available on Sky boxes.

It will also give the company some bartering rights with Apple and Google for distribution of their content on video stores, as well as boosting the company’s own SkyGo mobile TV platform.

"We know British programming resonates strongly with our customers so we’ve been building our capability and credibility in this area over the last couple of years. I’m very encouraged by the progress we’ve achieved so far, particularly in original comedy and drama, but we’re only at the start and we’re determined to raise our ambitions again and keep improving," SKY CEO Jeremy Darroch said.

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Sky has been aggressively spending on developing its own British TV shows, such as Stella, Spy and Starlings – which so far have been a mixed bag, and struggle to compete with the BBC’s hit shows such as Dr Who and Sherlock.

Sky also wants to challenge BBC’s legendary documentary making divisions, claiming it wants to make Sky Atlantic HD ‘the home of gold standard documentary films, the brief is going out to the world’s best documentary makers to come to the channel with bold ideas.’

Up to twelve peak time landmark documentaries will form the backbone of the new documentary slate. It has already signed up David Attenborough to develop the 3D ‘Kingdom of Planets’.

High end TV show production has entered something of a renaissance in the last 5 years, as viewers increasingly look for content outside of the mass produced junk in the Hollywood system, a methodology popularised by US cable channel HBO’s business model in the 90s.

That saw the cable company start funding and producing its own content, rather than simply acting as a distribution mechanism for Hollywood productions.

This saw the development of more mature, high production content such as the Sopranos and The Wire, mini-series’ such as Band of Brothers, and removed the stigma of ‘made for TV’ movies which were synonymous with poor quality. These shows became must-view TV and drove huge subscription rates to the channel.

Mainstream TV networks soon followed suit, but often struggle with censorship and ratings for their ‘public’ channels, which had, in the past, hamstrung networks such as the BBC’s ability to develop ‘edgy’ content.

While Sky has announced its intentions to develop mostly family films, documentaries and mini-series – the objective is clear – to develop exclusive content and ‘must see TV’ their rivals can’t sidestep or use without permission.




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