British pay-TV broadcaster Sky is to increase its original programming budget by 25% over the next twelve months – taking its total global spend to around £7BN ($9.2BN) per year.
The statement of intent from Rupert Murdoch’s satellite firm comes as it unveiled its latest slate of originations including the return of Julia Stiles-fronted drama Riviera, a new entertainment format from the producers of Hunted and a slew of idiosyncratic comedies.
Sky is set to have more than 50 original productions on air in 2018, around half of which are returning series. It is believed to spend more than £600M per year on original dramas, comedies, entertainment formats and documentaries in addition to its multimillion pound deals with HBO, Showtime and the Hollywood studios as well as its vast spend on sports rights including English Premier League soccer.
Sky’s Managing Director of Content Gary Davey said: “There’s never been a more competitive time to be in the content business and I’m incredibly excited by the scale, quality and authenticity of the UK TV industry right now. Next year will see over 50 Sky Original Productions on air and over 20 of these will be returners – a testament to the popularity of our shows – and it doesn’t stop there, with our increased investment, the focus for 2018 remains getting even better on screen.”
South of France soap Riviera, which stars Ten Things I Hate About You’s Stiles, is returning for a second run. The mystery drama, which sees Stiles’ Georgina Clios explore the death of her husband Constantine, played by Anthony LaPaglia on the Côte d’Azur, is thought to be Sky Atlantic’s most successful original commission to date with more than 20 million on-demand downloads and views.
Sky managed to navigate a trick start for the Archery Pictures-produced series, which airs on SVoD service Sundance Now and Ovation in the US, after co-creator Neil Jordan distanced himself from the project early on.
Elsewhere, it has unveiled a tranche of esoteric comedies including Urban Myths: When Bowie Met Bolan starring Jack Whitehall as Bolan and Luke Treadaway as Bowie. The one-off film, which is produced by All3Media’s Lion TV for Sky Arts, tells the story of when Davie Jones first met Mark Feld and the pair were asked to paint their manager’s office.
Separately, Urban Myths: The Dali and The Cooper tells the true story of Alice Cooper’s encounter with Salvador Dali in New York in 1973. Starring David Suchet as Salvador Dali and The Great British Bake Off host Noel Fielding as Alice Cooper, the show looks at how Cooper was asked to pose in a photo-shoot for one of the world’s first holograms while wearing a tiara made up of $2million worth of gems while brandishing a shish-kebabbed statuette of the Venus De Milo. It is directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who made Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth and is produced by An Idiot Abroad indie Me & You Productions.
The final Urban Myths commission centers around rap group Public Enemy. The show follows the band when they were stranded in a small UK town after their tour bus left without them, and they had to rely on man and his old Ford Focus to get them to their show on time. It stars Paterson Joseph as Chuck D and Abdul Salis as Flavor Flav and is produced by Neil Webster’s A Happy Tramp Production.
In entertainment, Sky has also ordered Loot, a treasure hunt format that follows eight people as they try and find the fortune and hide it for two weeks from detectives determined to track it down. If they can manage this, they can keep the treasure. The series is produced by Endemol Shine Group’s Shine TV, the company behind Hunted, the CBS and Channel 4 manhunt format.