Sky Studios: “We don’t need exclusive talent”

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Senior executives at Sky Studios, the production arm of the Comcast-owned broadcaster, have refuted suggestions that Sky is at a disadvantage compared with recent SVoD and D2C market entrants such as Apple and Disney in attracting exclusive on-and off-screen talent, and instead can benefit from its status as a platform and content provider to work with its ‘frenemies’, with its position as part of Comcast also beneficial.

Speaking via Zoom during a meeting of the UK’s Broadcasting Press Guild, Jane Millichip, CCO, Sky Studios, said the company was “not overly concerned by the things happening around us, particularly in SVoD. We feel there’s a lot of talent to go around. We’ve set up an innovation hub in Leeds where we are inviting new and largely diverse talent to work on new ideas and new narrative forms, as well as working with existing talent.”

Gary Davey (pictured), CEO, echoed her thoughts, revealing that Sky has taken a view that these ‘big ticket’ exclusive talent deals didn’t suit it, “partly because we’re in a world of wanting to grow the talent pool on both sides of the camera. It’s not just a cost factor. If we really badly wanted to sign an actor for some period of time we’ve got the resources to do that. We chose not to,” he stated.

“The great thing about the business we work in is nobody can have a monopoly on great ideas. Whether you’re Amazon, or Apple or Netflix or Adam Sandler, you cannot have a monopoly on good ideas. So we like to be able to fish in a very big pond. The two most important shows in the past five years had not one big star in them: Game of Thrones and Chernobyl. All-European casts and no ‘A-lister’,” he noted. “So I don’t think it makes sense to lock ourselves in to tightly with on-screen talent.”

In terms of the relationship with Disney and its closure of its pay channel on Sky in favour of its Disney+ D2C offer, Davey said the broadcaster had known about the situation for some time and was “well prepared” for it.

“One of the things about Sky which I’ve always quite enjoyed and was surprised by when I first joined is that we’re a platform, a content provider, a channel operator; there are multiple threads to the business,” added Millichip. “Netflix and Disney are available on Sky Q. Talk about ‘frenemies’. A lot of our competitors are actually on our platform, so it’s in our interest that they provide a good service. We observe what’s happening and are making sure that we’re on our toes, but we’re not threatened by Disney+ at all. It’s on the platform. From a platform perspective, we’re very agnostic. It’s not something that’s impacted us in a negative way at all,” she suggested.

On the international front, Millichip noted that Sky Studios was now well into the relationship with NBCU. “It’s interesting now to see Sky Originals as part of a studio site, she revealed that sister company NBCU’s sales people were not used to ’premium pay’, such as Sky Atlantic shows. ”Lean—forward TV is something that they haven’t had to handle before, so it’s opening up new markets for them as well.”

With a number of Sky Studios’ shows whose production had been suspended as a result of Covid-19, restarting, Davey revealed that Sky original, psychological thriller The Third Day, starring Jude Law and Naomie Harris, originally set for a Spring 2020 debut, would launch on Tuesday September 15th on Sky and NOW TV.

Some of the work on restarted productions had been carried out remotely, ”by people using laptops at home rather than in rooms filled with millions of dollars-worth of equipment,” revealed Davey, who admitted that this raised security concerns, with valuable content being sent around. “Network security is going to be an issue.”


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