Comcast’s European pay-TV broadcaster Sky has decided to pause all UK drama productions that involve international filming until spring 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking during live Q&A on YouTube, organized by the Edinburgh TV Festival, Sky’s director of drama Cameron Roach said productions are being looked at on a case-by-case basis, but he does not expect shows with overseas shoots or travel elements to be up and running for around 12 months.
Sky has had to pause international productions including Season 3 of Britannia, while the plans to push back filming could impact new commissions such as Kudos’ You, which tells the story of a woman who flees across Europe after killing her estranged father in a drug-fuelled rage.
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Roach added that UK productions could get back on track sooner, with a loose ambition of getting shows into pre-production by mid-summer. He pointed to Mark Strong thriller Temple as an example of a drama that is “manageable” because it is set-based and involves two-handers.
Roach explained: “What’s been really important for all of us is to have something to aim for. The future is completely unknown, but that’s hard for people to motivate themselves towards. By saying a mid-summer period of pre-production or heading into production, that means the writers’ room, the prep teams can be focused on that.
“But what I have been clear about is the relative demands on each show. So anything with significant foreign shooting or a show that travels as it shoots, we are recommending it shoots in 2021.”
Beyond drama, Sky’s entertainment chief Philip Edgar-Jones said he is in talks with producers about how to get shows into production that are not lockdown-focused. Sky has had to pause new shows, such as football format Redknapps’ Weekend Warm Up, but conversations are taking place with CPL over getting BAFTA-winning studio show A League Of Their Own into production. “It’s a time of great crisis for many, but also a time of great innovation,” Edgar-Jones said.
Zai Bennett, managing director of content in the UK and Ireland, added that Sky has seen a major uptick in viewing during the pandemic. Subscribers are watching 70 minutes more content a day, with magic show Dynamo: Beyond Belief becoming its biggest entertainment launch in a decade.
Bennett added that there are no current plans to cut spending on original commissions after fellow UK broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 have slashed their programming budgets. He also revealed that he is close to appointing a head of commissioning for Sky’s new factual channels Sky Documentaries and Sky Nature.
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