This should make UK producers happy: BSkyB has announced a “major new investment” in original British content to feed its Sky Movies and Sky Atlantic channels. News Corp-controlled BSkyB, whose chairman, James Murdoch, stepped down earlier this week, is planning significant backing for British feature-length family films and documentaries, the company said today. The group says the new productions are part of its “on-going drive to bring more high-quality, exclusive content to customers” and are supported by its “commitment to increase investment in home-grown programming to £600 million by 2014.” The move could also be considered a response to a UK film policy review that earlier this year called for more investment in local production from broadcasters – specifically Sky and ITV.

Sky’s recent local family commissions include Neverland with Rhys Ifans, Anna Friel, Bob Hoskins and Keira Knightley as Tinkerbell and Treasure Island with Eddie Izzard and Elijah Wood. Some new projects are already in development with further greenlighted pics to be given a roughly £5 million budget. The funding is coming out of a dedicated six-figure chest. On the documentary side, up to 12 productions will form a new slate on Sky Atlantic, the channel that launched in 2011 with top-tier shows like Boardwalk Empire and, now, Mad Men. Aiming to make the channel a destination for top-quality documentaries, Sky said, “the brief is going out to the world’s best documentary makers to come to the channel with bold ideas.” A full press release follows:

Sky today announced its intention to build on its significant commitment to original British content with a major new investment in feature-length British films for television. The investment has two distinct and complementary strands: new films for family audiences on Sky Movies and the best new documentary films on Sky Atlantic, which will be available exclusively for customers from 2013.

The new productions will be broadcast by Sky from 2013. They form part of Sky’s on-going drive to bring more high-quality, exclusive content to customers and are supported by its commitment to increase investment in home-grown programming to £600 million by 2014, an increase of more than 50% over three years.

Family-focused films for Sky Movies

Sky Movies will invest in a number of feature-length films for television aimed at the whole family over the next five years. New productions are already in development and Sky Movies is seeking submissions for further projects to be considered. The projects are being funded by a dedicated, six figure development fund.

In a bid to build on the genre in the UK, Sky will prioritise projects that appeal to the whole family, with an emphasis on new, cinematographic quality content which matches the scale and ambition of recent home-grown commissions such as Treasure Island and Neverland. Green-lit features will have budgets of around £5 million and will receive their premieres on Sky Movies from 2013.

Documentary films for Sky Atlantic HD

Sky Atlantic HD is spearheading Sky’s commitment to documentary films with the introduction of a new peak time strand in early 2013. Up to twelve peak time landmark documentaries will form the backbone of the new documentary slate. With the ambition for Sky Atlantic HD to become 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.

Projects in each strand will be commissioned and acquired exclusively for Sky customers and will receive their premieres on Sky Movies and Sky Atlantic HD. To make it easier for customers to access the new films, each production will be made available to Sky Movies and Sky Atlantic HD customers via Sky’s on demand services, as well as through Sky Go, offering customers greater choice over when, where and how they watch.

The investment in feature length films will add to the growing roster of original British content across Sky’s entertainment channel portfolio, such as David Attenborough’s forthcoming 3D documentary Kingdom of Plants, the BAFTA-nominated drama Mad Dogs and new comedies such as Stella, Spy, and Starlings.

Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s Chief Executive, said: “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.

“We see a real opportunity in British films, where we’ve already invested millions in three feature-length productions with Sir David Attenborough. Now we intend to green light more family films for Sky customers and help more of the best documentary makers to bring the films they most want to make to the screen. This is an ambitious plan that will bring benefits to the wider creative industries as well as to Sky and our customers.”