Sky Selling Theatrical Releases in the Home

With the shutdown of theatres worldwide, satellite TV operator Sky has begun offering digital video access to select theatrical releases in the home. The move is the latest among media companies upending traditional distribution channels as consumers face quarantine situations against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Sky, which is owned by Comcast, parent of NBCUniversal, has 24 million customers across seven countries in Europe. It is following a strategy taken by Universal Pictures in the United States, which has begun offering digital retail access to select theatrical movies.

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Sky Store will have a range of NBCU titles available the same day as their global cinema release. They will be priced at £15.99 ($18.99). This is available for Sky+ and Sky Q subscribers. Sky Store digital sales typically include a DVD backup sent in the mail.

The program begins with DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour April 6. This is the first time customers have been able to rent NBCUniversal movies as soon as they hit cinemas. On March 20, The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma will also be available on-demand on Sky Store, following their recent release in cinemas.

“We’re working hard at Sky to make sure we continue to look after our customers,” Stephen van Rooyen, EVP & CEO of Sky UK and Europe, said in a statement. “We’re also introducing some things to help make life a little easier for anyone at home trying to work, stay connected to loved ones, or keep the family entertained.”

During the ongoing pandemic, Sky will also make it “Go Extra” platform available free to all customers so European households have access to Sky TV on three screens at the same time. Calls to U.K. landlines any time of day will be free for existing Sky Talk customers through the end of April.

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Sky Mobile subscribers will get an extra 10GB data free added to their accounts. Call centers and engineers will prioritize the needs of existing customers to ensure their service keeps running smoothly.

Premium platform Sky Q will soon add over-the-top video platform Disney+ (March 24), in addition to YouTube Kids.

 

Sky Bows ‘Ultimate TV’ With Netflix

The day after announcing a marketing deal with Disney for the European launch of the Disney+ subscription streaming video platform, Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky unveiled a new premium content bundle that includes Netflix.

“Sky Ultimate TV” on Sky Q is a £25 ($36) monthly bundle that features every episode of Sky shows and includes access to Netflix.

Sky originals include Emmy award-winning “Chernobyl,” “Catherine the Great,” “Brassic,” and U.S. comedies “Girls” and “Parks & Recreation” or “Sex Education,” “The Witcher,” “Narcos: Mexico” and “Stranger Things” on Netflix.

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The enhanced partnership between pay-TV operator Sky and Netflix (which began in 2018) underscores ongoing shifts in consumer video viewing habits.

Netflix through the third quarter last year had more than 11.8 million subscribers in the U.K., according to Statista. That tally is said to have surpassed Sky’s U.K. sub total around 12 million.

Sky Q  subscribers also get live TV, “Catch-Up TV,” BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and “All 4,” as well as apps from YouTube, Spotify and XITE, among others.

“With the launch of Sky Ultimate TV, all our customers will get the most talked-about shows from Sky TV and Netflix,” Liz Wynn, managing director, Sky TV, said in a statement. “From ‘Save Me’ to ‘The Crown,’ you’ll get all the episodes whenever you want them, all in one place on our award-winning Sky Q box.”

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Sky Ultimate TV includes Netflix Basic, but subs can upgrade to Ultra HD and Netflix Premium for an additional £10 ($12.82) a month.

Comcast claims 2020 is set to be the biggest year ever for Sky TV, with 80 Sky originals on air and a 40% boost to U.S. content. This includes the brand new Sky Comedy channel, with Sky Documentaries, Sky Nature and Sky History channels.

Pending Sky originals include thriller “Gangs of London”; “Breeders,” a parenting comedy with Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard; “Save Me Too,” a British drama from the producers of “Line of Duty” with Lennie James and Suranne Jones and “I hate Suzie,” a drama starring Billie Piper.

 

Comcast’s Sky Inks Disney+ Streaming Deal

Comcast-owned satellite TV distributor Sky and Disney March 3 announced a new multiyear distribution deal, making Disney’s subscription streaming video platform (Disney+) available for purchase in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Sky Q, to be followed by Sky’s Now TV in the coming months.

Disney+ launches in the U.K., Ireland and other European countries on March 24. Sky Q currently offers direct access to Netflix, in addition to new deals with the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Warner Media Entertainment.

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The agreement between erstwhile competitors Comcast and Disney gives Sky subscribers direct access to Disney+ original series such as “The Mandalorian” and “High School Musical: The Musical, The Series” and “The World According to Jeff Goldblum,” among others.

As the deal also includes first-pay window access to 20th Century Fox movies, including Ford v Ferrari (known as Le Mans ’66 in some international markets) and Terminator: Dark Fate, a Paramount movie for which Fox has international distribution rights.

“We are delighted that Sky is selling the Disney+ service on their platform and, along with our other distribution partners, will deliver exceptional reach at launch,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Walt Disney direct-to-consumer & international, said in a statement.

Jeremy Darroch, group chief executive at Sky, said the two companies have established a “strong partnership” over three decades.

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“This is a great start to what is set to be another stellar year for Sky — in 2020 we’ll launch new channels and genres, start building Sky Studios Elstree and we’ve got brilliant new and returning originals coming too,” Darroch said.

Comcast’s Sky Unveils Largest-Ever Original Content Slate

To better compete against Netflix and Disney+ in the United Kingdom and Europe, Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky has unveiled a slate of 80 original programs — its largest ever.

The content slate includes an increase of 25% from 2019; 40% boost to U.S. content & 10 new commissions, including a collaboration between Sky Studios, HBO, Brad Pitt’s Plan B Productions for “The Third Day,” dubbed the world’s first immersive TV drama with an innovative live event staged as part of the series.

The slate was unveiled at Sky’s “Up Next” showcase event at the Tate Modern on Feb 12 in London, where the broadcaster shared previews of brand-new shows with talent, including “Friends” con-star David Schwimmer, Nick Mohammed, Maisie Williams, Billie Piper, Dynamo, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan.

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Other Sky content partners include Netflix, BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

“2020 is going to be the best year yet for content on Sky — we have new channels like Sky Comedy, Sky Nature and Sky Documentaries launching,” Group CEO Jeremy Darroch said in a statement.

Sky, which Comcast acquired for $39 billion, said it is “committed” to more than double investment in original content by 2024 through Sky Studios, as well as the proposed development of Sky Studios Elstree, a new TV and film studio in North London.

Among new original programming announced are:
The Tail of The Curious Mouse (w/t), a story about Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter; “Bloods,” a paramedic comedy; “Safe Space,” a comedy pilot written by and starring Greg Davies as a demotivated small-time psychotherapist.

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“Intelligence,” the comedy created by and starring Nick Mohammed, alongside David Schwimmer, is confirmed for a second instalment ahead of the first series airing next week.

“Urban Myths,” the International Emmy Award-nominated series returns for a fourth outing with Steve Pemberton, Robbie Coltrane, Kara Tointon and Katherine Ryan.

“Cobra,” the high-stakes political drama, starring Robert Carlyle and Victoria Hamilton returns for a second series after becoming one of Sky One’s most successful drama series in recent years, with a launch audience of 2.2 million.

Already set to air on Sky in 2020: The Third Day (Jude Law, Naomie Harris), I Hate Suzie (Billie Piper), Save Me Too (Lennie James, Suranne Jones, Lesley Manville), Breeders (Martin Freeman, Daisy Haggard), and The Trip to Greece (Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon).

Key acquired shows for 2020 include “The Plot Against America” (starring Winona Ryder), “The Undoing” (starring Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman), “Run” (written by Vicky Jones and exec produced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” (starring Natalie Dormer) and the award-winning “Succession” (starring Brian Cox).

 

Sky, Disney+ Finalizing Direct Access Deal

Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky reportedly is in the final stages securing distribution of Disney’s branded subscription streaming video service, Disney+, which bows in Europe March 24.

The Sunday Telegraph, which cited sources familiar with the situation, reported the deal would be exclusive and similar to Sky’s distribution of Netflix and other third-party services.

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Netflix and Sky partnered in 2018, with the latter offering subscribers two tiers of Netflix service at separate price points.

Such pay-TV deals have been integral to Netflix expanding its subscriber footprints in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The partnerships include more than apps. Pay-TV subs are given access to Netflix programming on Sky’s homepage.

Partnership with Sky could help Disney+ gain a foothold in Europe as it chases its 60 million to 90 million subscriber goal by 2024, while enabling easier SVOD access for pay-TV customers.

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Netflix, Sky Re-Up Distribution Agreement

Comcast’s love affair with Netflix expands overseas. The cable giant’s Sky satellite TV subsidiary in the United Kingdom has renewed a distribution agreement with Netflix first inked in 2018.

Under terms of the new deal, Sky subscribers will be able to access Netflix on Sky Q, including Netflix originals “The Witcher,” The Irishman and “Sex Education.”

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“This is a great start to what is set to be another strong year for Sky,” CEO Stephen van Rooyen with Sky U.K. and Ireland, said in a statement. “Our customers love Netflix content and our partnership continues to go from strength to strength, we plan to launch new channels and genres, start building our new studio, Sky Studios Elstree, and we’ll have great new and returning Sky originals too.”

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BritBox U.K. Expansion Undermined by Sky Cold Shoulder

BritBox, the British-themed SVOD founded in the United States in 2017, has encountered a significant roadblock expanding service in the U.K.

The joint venture between the BBC and ITV has reportedly been given the distribution cold shoulder by Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky and its 10 million subscribers.

BritBox, with 670,000 subs in the United States, was looking for Sky to help it gain a foothold in a U.K. market already inundated by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, with Disney+ coming in March, 2020.

Amy Jones, a former senior content manager with Amazon Prime Video, was hired in January as managing editor of BritBox to improve content programming.

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Sky, which operates online TV service Now TV, has a direct-access SVOD deal with Netflix.

“We’ll continue to discuss new partnerships with a range of content providers, but we remain disciplined in investing in those new partnerships where they clearly deliver additional value to our customers,” Sky said in a statement.

BritBox is reportedly close to securing distribution deals with Google Chromecast, among others.

“We are looking forward to extending the number of partners we have to enable BritBox to get to more and more homes,” ITV said in a statement.

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Studio Wars: Comcast’s Sky Building New U.K. Production Facility

In the burgeoning over-the-top video streaming world, original content production has become a prerequisite to lure consumers. And the physical space to create movies and TV shows in the United Kingdom is now a new cottage industry.

Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky has announced plans to build a Hollywood-style studio on 32 acres north of London it claims would employ 2,000 people and help it better compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

Dubbed Sky Studios Elstree, the facility would emerge as the European production base for Sky Studios and NBC Universal — corporate parent to Universal Pictures.

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“This was an opportunity to build something brand new, state of the art and at scale,” Gary Davey, CEO of Sky Studios, said in a statement. “It is a big enough site to attract very high-end production in both TV and film from all over the world. We are going to fill this thing with projects of all kinds. It means a huge number of new jobs and new investment.”

Sky Studios has created several hits, including miniseries “Chernobyl” and “Patrick Melrose” for HBO, and the pending “The Third Day,” a six-part drama starring Jude Law co-produced by the WarnerMedia subsidiary.

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Sky has said it plans to double spending on original content, reaching £1 billion ($1.3 billion) annually over the next five years.

Netflix earlier this year inked a long-term lease with Shepperton Studios to better produce original content across the studios’ 14 sound stages.

Disney then upped the ante, announcing it would lease legendary Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, U.K. — production home to many James Bond movies.

“It’s wonderful to have Disney here at Pinewood. They’ve been making great films with us for many years and the fact they want to shoot so many more here is testimony not only to the quality of the teams and infrastructure at Pinewood, but also to the British film industry as a whole,” the studio said in a statement.

 

‘E.T.’ Friends Reunite to Market Xfinity and Sky Technology

Comcast NBCUniversal is reuniting E.T. and Elliott — iconic characters from Universal Pictures’ 1982 classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial — to market Xfinity and Sky technology.

In a short made in connection with the Comcast-owned studio, E.T. is back on earth for a surprise visit with Elliott (Henry Thomas reprising his role), who now has his own family. Although technology has changed the world since they’ve last seen each other 37 years ago, their connection and friendship remain strong.

The two-minute version of the story will debut during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC in the United States, and then the full-length, four-minute version will be immediately available at xfinity.com/ET.

The company will be featuring the film on Syfy on Thanksgiving Day and making it available on demand for Xfinity TV customers. Xfinity TV customers with X1 will be able to say “E.T. Phone Home” into their voice remote for an E.T.-themed destination. Anyone who visits a Xfinity retail location can pick up an E.T. coloring book and candy.

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“The audience is going to get everything they want out of a sequel without the messy bits that could destroy the beauty of the original and the special place it has in people’s minds and hearts. It’s really a win-win,” stated Thomas, who starred in director Steven Spielberg’s classic as the 10-year-old boy who helps a lost alien find his way home. “Looking at the storyboards, I could see exactly why Steven was really behind it, because the integrity of the story isn’t lost in this retelling.”

“More than anything, the whole story is about family,” added short director Lance Acord in a statement.

“Our goal is to show how Xfinity and Sky technology connects family, friends and loved ones, which is so important during the holidays,” said Peter Intermaggio, SVP for marketing communications, Comcast Cable. “The classic friendship between E.T. and Elliott resonates around the world, and their story became a very meaningful way to bring our company’s consumer technology to life.”

WarnerMedia, Comcast’s Sky Extend Content Distribution Deal

HBO Max may be the future, but distribution across existing and competing platforms overseas is just as important.

WarnerMedia has extended a distribution agreement with Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky in Europe.

First established in 2010, the new agreement includes distribution through HBO of Warner Bros. movies, Cartoon Network and Boomerang episodic programming.

Content has included “Watchmen,” “Succession” and “Big Little Lies,” in addition to Sky originals such as “Patrick Melrose,” “Babylon Berlin” and “Gomorrah.”

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“Our partnership with HBO, and now Warner Media, has never been stronger as Sky continues to thrive as Europe’s leading direct-to-consumer media and entertainment business,” Gary Davey, CEO of Sky Studios, said in a statement. “Customers love our Sky original productions and together, Sky Studios and HBO Max will bring them more unique stories that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Sky and WarnerMedia also extended co-production deals with Sky Studios and HBO Max working together on original content.

Co-production Chernobyl garnered 10 Primetime Emmys, and latest co-production “Catherine the Great,” with Helen Mirren, received critical acclaim following its U.K. broadcast debut this month.

“We are thrilled to find new ways to deepen our longstanding relationship with Sky, and bring a fresh dimension to the great content we continue to bring to consumers,” said Jeffrey Schlesinger, president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution, in a statement.